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CLEP Testing

Mary Asked:

My son just completed your course Alg II & Trig.  Is this enough preparation to pass the clep exams for Algebra or Pre-calculus?  If not, do you have any suggestions to prepare for it? Same questions for your calculus program?


Dr. Callahan Answered:


For CLEP credit after ALGEBRA II WITH TRIG, your options are:


Either would work with a little prep. I might go after precalc first.

For Calculus there is only one exam, and our calculus course would be most of (if not all) the prep needed.

But here are some guidelines for all CLEP:


  1. Check with the university you plan to attend. How do they treat CLEP? Most will accept a lot of CLEP – so make sure. If they do not accept much, I might rethink the school unless they are offering scholarships to you.
  2. Then check the department of study. For instance, if going into engineering or a sciences field, they may prefer to see one over the other – or may not accept either. Ask. In many engineering schools they will not allow you to CLEP out of math. But remember, EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIABLE. A good student who is proven is hard to pass up. So if you get a no, ask “What will you need to see to accept my CLEP credit?”
  3. Then assuming you have a direction, prepare for the test. There is USUALLY something that was not covered in your course, so you might need to go cover it quickly. In our Algebra II with Trig course, you might want to get familiar with the other chapters (at least a few of them) that we did not cover. Almost every course is that way – so just make sure you know what you need. Also, make sure you pretest and brush up on what they need. Get the study guide and see what you are missing. Key is GET SAMPLE TESTS.

Then take the test. If you do not pass it on first try, see what you got wrong and then go try again. Do not consider not passing as failure, just instead as telling you where you were weak.

For almost every college, CLEP is well worth the trouble. Costs of CLEP is less than $200 (including study material) to save over $1000 – and you will have to learn the extra material anyway. Do it now, do it fast, and do it much cheaper.
Hope this helps.

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Geometry or Algebra 2 with Trig First?

Geometry vs Alg2wTrig

Question from Melissa:

I am trying to decide which course to do first?  My son is finishing 8th grade this year and has completed Alg 1.  As a freshman, he would need either Geometry or Alg2/Trig.  Is there a preferred sequence?  Would the sequence matter for the SAT or ACT?

Answer from Dr. Callahan:

AskDrCallahan Jacobs GeometryWe usually recommend Geometry first. The book is still at high school level (mostly), has a lot of Algebra review, and introduces the student to Trig.

The Algebra II with Trig (Barnett text we use) is actually a college book and a bit more intense.

As for the SAT/ACT, you will see both Geometry concepts and Algebra II concepts on the tests. The ACT has a small amount of Trig (actually what is done in Geometry gets you there)

So what we would do it this:

1. Take Geometry first.

2.Same time get prepared for or take the ACT/SAT. We would recommend a coach for this if you can because they can really help prepare and push up the score. Note we have a partner Higher Score Test Prep who helps in this and offers our customers a discount.

3. Then I would evaluate the ACT/SAT with respect to content and work on improving it while moving into Algebra II with Trig.AskDrCallahan Algebra 2 with trigonometry

Also, you might see this article on scope and sequence for the college bound.

Hope this helps


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Calculators for High School Math and Beyond

Question from Jan:

I have a question about calculators.  My son is currently taking Ask Dr. Callahan’s Geometry course.  He plans to take Algebra 2 and Trig. next year, followed by Calculus the following year.  Next year he will take the PSAT in the fall and then the SAT his senior year.  What type of calculator would you recommend we buy for him to best serve his needs in math?  I did check the SAT and PSAT websites and printed the names of calculators that they allow for the test. So I want it for those tests as well as the courses he will be taking.  Thanks for your advice.  We appreciate it.  He loves geometry!!!

Answer from Dr. Callahan:

Let me answer this question across all four courses as we get it frequently.

Calculators come in four various forms (as for math)

  1. The 4 function calculator:  A few bucks and NOT what you want. These are: add, subtract, multiply, and divide.
  2. Scientific calculator:  These have the things you use in calculus such as trig, exponential, etc. Can be found for $10+ TI-3o series is a great example
  3. Graphing calculator:  These allow you to see a graph. Start around $50
  4. CAS (Computer Algebraic Calculator) with graphing: These do graphing AND computer algebra. In other words, they will solve problems for you. VERY powerful. They will typically be over $100. the TI-89 is a popular example.

Any of the later 3 will work, but my choice for Algebra II with Trig or higher would be the TI-89 or equivalent. Not a ton of money for something you will use for a few years. A student could certainly do well with a TI-30 also, but if he is going to learn to use it, a TI-89 is a good deal.

You can also find free versions of the TI-89 for download. The only ones I have seen require MS Windows (not for MAC).

The TI-30 Calculator is included in the Full Course Bundle for Jacob’s Elementary Algebra and Jacob’s Geometry. This calculator is allowed on the ACT. It can be used throughout your student’s academic career and at college.

Online Calculators

My favorite tool is the wolfram website.  It is far more powerful by far than any of the above. But, you cannot use it on any tests.



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Should My Child Take Notes From the DVD Lectures and the Textbook?

Question from Lisa:

What is the best way to go about studying for mathematics? Should my child take notes from the DVD lectures and the textbook? He says taking notes distracts him from concentrating on the lectures. When I was in school, we were always encouraged to take notes. Does it help in mathematics? If so, how should he take notes from the lectures and textbooks?

Answer from Cassidy Cash:

When I read your email I couldn’t help but smile 🙂 While all children learn in their own unique way, I feel it is safe to say that taking notes is not a bad idea for anyone. That said, it may very well be that taking notes is not the best learning method for your son.

I would say the first step is to evaluate the reason for your son’s objection. Notes might truly be a hindrance to him, or it may be that he just does not want to apply himself and do that extra work. You are the best person to make that evaluation. The dvd is designed to be watched while following along in the textbook. We are hoping that students are sitting there with their book and notebook paper following along actively, not just watching the dvd as they would a tv show. While we took steps to try and make the dvd enjoyable and interesting, it is not pure entertainment, so some amount of participation on the student’s part is to be expected.

However, the best way to learn anything is by doing it. So I would suggest approaching mathematics with some outside doing instead of just number crunching. A good place to start with the Algebra course specifically, is with the activities listed in the back of the Teachers Guide. You might make math class one day (or perhaps more than one day) about applying the subject with activities and real world examples. Something my students thought was fun was to come up with their own lesson activities. Make sure that your student understands the math concepts and that he can work math problems, but there is nothing wrong with reaching outside of the textbook for learning aids.

Math exists all around us, and by stepping outside the textbook in this way, you are not only encouraging the student to see math in their world, but you make learning a little more fun than rote memorization and number crunching—or note taking. 🙂

I hope this helps! God Bless, Cassidy Cash

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How do DVD Instructions Correspond to Chapter Sections?

Question from Leela:

Is there a guide to know which portion of the Geometry DVD instruction corresponds to the chapter sections in the book? ie, for 6.2, when is Dr. Callahan finished with concept for that section and where does the instruction start addressing concepts in 6.3? My homeschool student needs little chunks of DVD instruction at a time; practices it, then takes the next little chunk. It’s hard to tell when the lesson is finished. Help?

Answer from Dr. Callahan:

I do not have a direct answer – but I hope this will help.

First – we cover things in groups where all the concepts are related. Not because we were lazy, but because math is concept based, and we have found people learn math better in getting the concept as a whole first and then diving into the details. So we cover related concepts at once.

Second – while this method might not seem to fit your short term goal, trust me, it is VERY helpful since the ACT and SAT exams test on conceptual thinking. Therefore, having your students get used to this kind of thinking will be preparing them to think for the exams.

But how do you deal with it? Here is what I would do….

Have them watch video on the multiple sections and then work on the individual areas or lessons. When they finish one lesson, go back and watch the video again and then do the next section of problems. This will help them see that all the concepts are the same, but the details are different.

As my wife tells me – if I were teaching someone to cook I would not lecture them on salt and have them play with salt for 3 lessons. I would explain what it does (concept) and then have them use in various ways one lesson at a time. Same idea for math. We learn better knowing the bigger why than doing the details.

I hope this helps!


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Is Jacob’s Algebra 1 Equivalent to College Algebra 1?

Question from Terrie:

I have a son using Algebra 1 with the dvd set and I am trying to determine if it is equal to a college Algebra 1? Or, would it take completion of algebra 1 and 2 to equal college algebra 1? Thanks for the help!

Answer from Dr. Callahan:

College algebra usually means Algebra II. So in your case, it would be both the Algebra 1 and 2.

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Do you recommend non-college bound students take Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry?

Question from Beth:

I work with the Middle and High School Programs for the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools. My focus is math and I’ve been educating our members about the courses you offer. One question we occasionally get concerns non-college bound students who struggle with math. Do you recommend that they still struggle through Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry to get their 3 math credits required for graduation? Or are there other course options/materials that you would recommend? Thank you for any assistance you can give me on this!

Answer from Dr. Callahan:

Great question. I would, and here are some reasons why…

1. These concepts apply. The world is complex, and we know the language of nature is math. Math explains everything from economics to rainfall. Without some understanding, you are subject to be manipulated by people who use math to convince you about their own agenda. For instance, many people talk about “randomness” to make an agenda point. This is really a mathematical term and has specific meanings. Unless you get that, you are sucked into their argument.

2. Math can be practical. Much of what we teach in these subjects has applied to my life when I am building a house, buying fencing for the yard, cooking, etc.

3. You never know what future holds. Many people go back for more formal education or specific education. While you can make-up subjects later, most find it harder once you have a job and a family. While you are focused on education, get education.

4. And perhaps most of all, what if your kids decide to educate their own kids. Would it not be better that they are prepared for the job?

All this said to say, I would not STRUGGLE with it too much. We try to focus on math as real. Focus on the concepts and do not get bogged down in too much complexity. And, do not spend more than one hour per day on the subject. Many a math teacher and course over complicates and works the student to death. So for parents, I say find a curriculum that relates to the student.

Hope this helps.

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Entrepreneurship Courses for High School?

Question from Penny:

While looking at your homeschool math curriculum, I noticed your entrepreneurship course and Resumes are Worthless materials. Would these courses be appropriate for a high school student (for instance, part of a personal finance/entrepreneurship course), or are they geared more toward adults/parents (since the course is taught at the graduate school level)? Thank you so much for your help!

Answer from Dr. Callahan:

Yes the course is for any age. When we originally did it we had people from 9-30 in the group.

The book has a lot of corporate examples – but the ideas about how to be an entrepreneur inside a large company works for anyone.

The main thing is that people learn to think like owners and not “employees”

So for high school should be very relevant.

Hope this helps!


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Scope and Sequence for College Bound

Your cover school or state may require 2-4 high school maths. If you are working toward smaller scholarships or high-end private colleges, they may have requirements for specific courses in high school. Contact the colleges you are interested in and ask for their requirements. However, for the most part, colleges do not really care as long as they get money, and your student scores well enough on the ACT and SAT.  You also need to contact the college of your choice to find out the score required on these exams. Sometimes the front line admin people will say they want things – but really they want money. 😉 Know that no matter how high your student’s ACT/SAT score, they will be required to take a math placement exam at the university and will be placed according to that score. Our courses will help with the ACT/SAT and math placement exams.

So as far as a typical math sequence goes, you can break it up in all kinds of ways. The key is how much time did you spend and what does your school (cover) require. We see some who call it

Algebra II With Trig

and others

Algebra II (do this course over a longer period)


Algebra II (do first few chapters of Alg II – say chapter 1-4)
Precalc (Do 5-8)

So it really just depends.

What I would suggest is to first find out where your student plans to go to college (or the options including what specific fields of study) then contact them and ask what they would like to see. Once you get to the department level advisors, you will get some good counsel. DEPARTMENT LEVEL is key!!! Not just the admissions or Freshman counselors.  I would do this no matter what. They might have other helpful hints you can use now. Do not worry about it being too soon. You are making a plan, and rather than listen to all the common advice about what they want to hear, just hear it from them.

But trust me, even in engineering we would never run off a student for lack of high school courses or high school grades. They are going to focus on those test scores and their own entrance/placement tests. (Which are written by the same people who write the ACT.)