College Algebra 5th Edition (2008) Review by Cathy Duffy
13 DVDs, hardbound textbook, complete solutions guide, and student technical support - $409
The College Algebra textbook is by Larson, Hostetler and Edwards published by Houghton Mifflin. The text follows the same format as do Larson's other algebra books. As you might have guessed from the course title, College Algebra is really a college course rather than high school. However, you might use it after Algebra 2 or, in rare cases, instead of Algebra 2.
The course reviews much of the material covered in Algebra 2 but takes it to a deeper level in most instances and at a more rapid pace. For example, in the section on graphing equations, we encounter new types of equations and graphs. In the study of functions, we encounter more complex functions than previously.
It might be possible for outstanding Algebra 1 students to skip Algebra 2 and move directly into this text, but for most students it should follow an Algebra 2 course for the humanities (non-sciences ) student. Some students will be able to skip the first section of the course that reviews fundamental concepts of algebra.
Although the course is titled College Algebra, it is only a little more challenging than Algebra 2. In comparison to Saxon's math series, the content of College Algebra is somewhat equivalent to algebra coverage in Saxon's Advanced Math. The use of a graphing calculator is highly recommended, but the course can be completed without one.
College-bound humanities students who do not need calculus and trigonometry will have a very solid math background if they continue algebra studies through this course. Students completing the Chalk Dust College Algebra course should be able to test out of college algebra at the college of their choice.
College-bound students interested in an engineering or science degree are advised to take the Chalk Dust Precalculus course that covers topics in both the Trigonometry and College Algebra courses plus other material. An additional benefit of taking Precalculus rather than Trigonometry and College Algebra separately is the cost: $554 for Precalculus versus $838 for the other two courses.
Chalk Dust College Algebra starts with a 2.5-hour review of everything from real numbers and polynomials to fractional expressions and probability. Then you tackle algebraic equations and inequalities, the Cartesian plane and graphs, functions and graphs, zeros of polynomial functions, exponential and logarithmic functions, systems of equations and inequalities, matrices and determinants, sequences and probability, with an appendix on conic sections. As you can see, this is basically Algebra II plus a few extra goodies. If you have your heart set on AP credit you may well choose this course in preference to highschool Algebra II.