High School Math Courses: All Concepts You Need To Know Before the University

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When in high school, you will be required to take a diverse range of courses in several academic areas, including mathematics. At the same time, this may seem to be a difficult challenge. These lessons are intended to assist you in excelling in mathematics. Ensuring students are prepared for success at the college level and increase their capacity to succeed in other subjects (like science courses).

If you're curious about what high school math courses you'll be taking, keep reading!

Most high school students are expected to finish three years of math education, but four years is suggested since some institutions require students to complete four years of math study. Other high schools can require students to continue math until a specific subject is finished to graduate.

After completing the required math courses. If you are certain that you do not want to pursue a career that needs advanced math and is not your strongest subject. It may be beneficial to enroll in other more closely linked programs linked to the area of your study. In contrast, high school is a fantastic time to start studying more complex topics if you want to work in STEM ( science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).

Curriculum for High School Mathematics

high school math

Several high schools students are required to complete three years of mathematics to graduate. And some provide recommendations that students complete four years with math. Passing an algebra class as well as a geometry class are often included in these criteria.

To achieve a more uniform math curriculum throughout the nation, 45 states have signed onto the Common Core standards for math. Which is currently being implemented in 45 states. High school mathematics courses should cover the following six subject areas, according to the Common Core standards.

  • Algebra
  • Functions
  • Modeling
  • Geometry
  • Statistics
  • Probability

However, since these standards are extremely broad and do not define which arithmetic topics should be covered at which grade level, there is still a great deal of variation between schools and across states.

There is no particular high school math course that you should be attending as a freshman, sophomore, or junior to succeed. Determined by testing and previous arithmetic skills. A sequence of courses is offered, and each student starts with the most appropriate subject.

The following is the usual sequence of math courses in high school:

  • Algebra 1
  • Geometry
  • Algebra 2/ Trigonometry
  • Pre-Calculus


It should be noted, however, that this sequence is not fixed in stone. A variety of approaches are used to teach algebra 1 and 2 before moving on to geometry. Some of the schools combine Trigonometry with Pre-calculus or Geometry rather than Algebra 2. Some students who study pre-algebra or a similar class need to improve their mathematics skills before enrolling in algebra 1. On the other hand, most of the high schools use a course sequence similar to the one that is outlined above about their math courses.

The math class you will take your freshman year will be determined by your introductory math courses. These placement exams are required to be completed before the beginning of high school. In other words, if you had completed algebra 1 in eighth grade, you may be able to pick up geometry as a freshman and work your way down the list from there. Pre-calculus and calculus are not required courses for all high school students.

Algebra 1

Asa general rule, Algebra 1 will be the first math course that you must complete as a part of your high school education. You will learn about real numbers and will experiment with solving, expressing, and graphing linear equations. Also included are polynomials, quadratic equations and functions, and arithmetic operations.

Many students enroll in algebra courses during their freshman year, but math subjects are allocated depending on the placement exam results before enrolling. As a result, high school math courses may include students from a variety of different grade levels.


Geometry is a popular elective among students who may not normally love math. Plane and solid geometry are likely to be covered in geometry courses, and this will involve constructions, measurement formulae, and formal proofs, among other things.

This course is usually taken after Algebra 1, and it may include students from various grade levels as a result of placement exams.

Algebra 2

As would be expected, Algebra 2 focuses on the abilities and ideas learned in Algebra 1. This covers a more in-depth examination of equations, inequalities, and functions, as well as their solution and graphing.

Algebra2 courses incorporate trigonometry, which is not usually taught as a separate subject in the same semester as Algebra 2. For a lot of students, this is the final mathematics subject they must take before graduating from high school.


This course is often optional for students who want to enroll in more difficult math courses after completing this course. Series, sequences, probabilities, limits, derivatives, and statistics are covered in this course.

Many seniors take this course as a preparation for the study of mathematics in college.


Trigonometry is often completed during junior year (though it may be completed sooner or later). Although some students may choose to study it as a stand-alone subject, it is frequently included in current math courses. It entails studying algebra and geometry and applying those ideas to circular and periodic functions.


Even though a small number of high school students make it to calculus, some make it this far. This may be especially beneficial if you want to pursue a degree in a math-related area in college.

Students may anticipate continuing learning the topics covered in Pre-calculus, emphasizing integration and differentiation now being placed on the syllabus.

Other elective courses

Classes in elective mathematics vary widely from school to school, including computational mathematics, mathematics applications, and mathematics literacy. These courses tend to be more focused on real-world applications of mathematics and may betaken by students from various backgrounds outside than the STEM sector.

AP Classes

Students seeking STEM careers or education may benefit from taking Advanced Placement(AP) courses to help them stand out from the crowd. Both AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC are rigorous courses that show your abilities to prospective universities and are available at various institutions.

In addition, you may be able to enroll in AP Statistics, which several students consider being somewhat less challenging than AP Calculus. It is also frequently used and may be beneficial when you begin your college mathematics studies. AP Calculus may be a better option for STEM students, while AP Statistics may be a more appropriate choice for those in other areas of study.

What is the minimum number of math classes required?

highschool math concepts

Colgate University, on the other hand, does not require applicants to have a mathematical background. However, as per the liberal arts school, most admitted students have finished four years of mathematics.

Most universities, like high schools, require candidates to have completed three years of mathematics, with four years being recommended. Completing four years of mathematics is frequently needed by selective universities, and certain schools may additionally demand the completion of specific mathematics courses such as algebra 2, geometry, or pre-calculus.

Because schools are more concerned with courses relevant to your planned major than with your math classes in high school, students intending to major inhumanities, social sciences, or a comparable area will find that their math classes are not as essential as the math classes they thought. At the same time, you are not required to take the most difficult math courses your high school provides. Some schools are looking for fundamentally gifted and well-rounded students, so you should strive to perform well in the math courses you take to maintain a strong GPA.

There are differences in the quantity and kind of math courses needed from one high school to the next and from one institution to the next.

For example, New York State requires 6 math credits (six semesters) for graduation, containing at least 2 credits beyond Algebra I and must include at least 2credits beyond Algebra II. Meanwhile, the state of California requires two years of mathematics, which provides for Algebra I. Students in Florida must finish four math credits (equivalent to 4 year-long courses), including Algebra and Geometry, among other subjects. Certifications that lead to academic credit or computer science may be used to replace for up to two credits, except Algebra I and Geometry, which cannot be substituted.

Many schools require a certain number of math courses for entrance, while others suggest that students take a certain number of math courses. Math is needed in all Cornell schools except Art, Arts & Sciences and Architecture, and Planning (although the architecture degree needs four years), which each requires three years of math.

According to the University of Virginia (UVA), students must complete three years of mathematics, including algebra I and II, and one course from the following categories: Geometry, Calculus, Advanced Algebra & Trigonometry, or a closely comparable subject.

Suppose you want to pursue a degree in a STEM area (science, engineering, technology, or mathematics). In that case, you should anticipate greater expectations since math abilities will be more important in your college classes and subsequent employment. Most universities will need you to have completed four years of mathematics in high school, which may include pre-calculus and calculus in certain circumstances. When it comes to college offers, you'll be competing against a lot of other bright STEM students, so you'll want to make yourself stand out by enrolling in difficult math courses that are provided at a high level.

Even if math is not required in college, it is strongly recommended that all high school students finish four years of math. This is because many schools demand it, even if they do not need it, and it will help you remain prepared for any math courses you may need to take in college. Continue reading to discover how to go beyond the expectations placed on you by universities.

What is the most difficult math course you have taken in high school?

You will most likely discover that IB Math HL or AP Calculus BC is one of the most challenging math subject offered at your institution in the majority of instances. It should be noted that AP Calculus BC not only covers the content covered in AP Calculus AB but also extends the program by covering more difficult and advanced topics.

If your state and school both allow dual enrollment programs, you may be able to enroll in college classes while still in high school. You will probably be able to locate even more difficult courses if this is feasible, and you may be qualified to attend them if you have completed your high school's math program. Prerequisites for such classes and the AP and IB courses mentioned above must be met before you may enroll in them.

How does it affect your college prospects?

university math

The quick answer is that your course rigor significantly affects your college prospects, but the long answer is that it does not. Admissions officials like to see students enrolled in the most difficult course load provided to them because it demonstrates that they are both motivated and equipped to face the rigors of a tough college curriculum, according to the ACT.

That being said, you are not required to take the most difficult math courses available at your institution if they are not related to your chosen major, such as English. To be successful in your program, you should have a demanding course load that includes additional AP, IB, and/or honors courses in your stronger subject areas that are aligned with your program of interest. You should also check to see whether you have fulfilled the criteria or requirements for admission to the specific schools you are interested in.

Keep in mind that many elite colleges and universities utilize the Academic Index to filter out candidates who do not satisfy their minimal academic qualifications. This number takes into consideration your grade point average and results on standardized exams. While it does not consider the difficulty of your courses or the particular courses themselves, if you do undertake advanced courses, you will often earn "extra credit" in the form of points on your GPA as a result of your participation. This will help you enhance your artificial intelligence.

What if Calculus is not offered in my high school?

The availability of math courses varies significantly from high school to high school. Many local rural schools generally do not offer calculus as a course choice, but the same is true in certain cases, even for big institutions in some areas. Don't be surprised if you find yourself in a scenario where calculus isn't an option due to time constraints. Universities get information on the course content at your school, and then they will check to see whether you have taken the most difficult courses offered to you. If your school does not provide a course, you should not be penalized for choosing not to enroll in a course that does not exist in the first place.

If your school offers AP calculus, but you opt for a remedial course on the mathematics of money alternatively, you are not pushing yourself to learn anything new. This will be considered a negative factor in your admissions application. If, on the other hand, your high school offers just a second year of algebra and you pass the course with flying colors, colleges should not penalize you for taking the course.

According to the National Science Teachers Association, students' interest in STEM will be at its peak once they have completed calculus. Even if your high school does not teach calculus, you may be able to take advantage of these below opportunities. Seek advice from a guidance counselor about your choices, which may include the following:

  • Calculus is being taught at a nearby community college. In addition, you may discover that some colleges and universities and public universities offer evening and weekend courses that do not overlap with your high school courses. If you take college calculus in high school, your high school is likely to provide credit toward graduation, and you'll also have college credits that are likely to transfer.
  • AP Calculus is being taught online. Likewise, you should consult with your guidance counselor about your choices. There are various options available, including courses offered via your public university system, private universities, and for-profit educational corporations. It's important to check reviews before enrolling in an online course since they may vary from great to awful. It's not worthwhile to enroll in a course that's not likely to result in success on the AP examination. Also, bear in mind that online classes require a great deal of self-discipline and drive on your part.
  • Preparing for the AP Calculus test on your own. For students who are determined and have an exceptional talent for mathematics, it is feasible to independently prepare for the AP test. Taking an AP course is not required for taking the AP test; however, schools will be pleased if you score a 4 or 5 on the AP exam after doing your research.

Or you can opt for the best of both worlds at geekedu.org. They provide a professional learning environment for a wide range of Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced math courses, including; Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Probability, Calculus, AP Calculus, and middle school contests like AMC 8 preparations. These mathematics courses are intended for passionate learning students. The teachers utilize a well-designed curriculum to cultivate problem-solving abilities while presenting topics. This helps students build alongside strong theoretical study habits and practical knowledge. Students will be prepared to succeed in mathematics courses, university preparation, and renowned mathematics contests.

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Do Colleges Appreciate Advanced math?

It is one of the most effective methods to show your college preparedness in mathematics than succeeding in an AP calculus course. Calculus AB and BC are the two AP Calculus courses offered at the high school level.

As defined by the College Board, the AB course is comparable to the first year of college calculus, while the BC course is equal to the first two semesters of college calculus. Additionally, subjects like sequences and series are introduced in the BC course, and the broad coverage of differential and integral calculus is found on the AB test.

The fact that you've studied calculus will be sufficient evidence of your academic ability for the majority of schools. Although the BC course is more confusing, you will not be over-pressurizing yourself if you take calculus AB. It should be noted that Calculus AB is accepted by much more college candidates than Calculus BC.

Suppose you attend a school with a good engineering department. In that case, however, you may discover that BC calculus is highly favored and that you will not get calculus placement credit for passing the AB test. Because in an institution like MIT, the BC test material is taught in a single semester. Allowing students to prepare for the exam efficiently. It is multi-variable calculus taught in the 2nd semester of calculus, not included in the Advanced Placement program. For clarification, the AB test is equivalent to a half-semester of college calculus and does not qualify for placement credit in the course. The ability to pass AP Calculus AB is still a significant asset in the application process, although you may not always get course credit for earning a high grade.

What Is the Implication of All of This?

Taking calculus or four years of mathematics is a prerequisite for just a small number of universities. Higher learning institutions do not want to be in the position of having to reject an otherwise well-qualified candidate because of a lack of calculus coursework.

Adhere to the "highly suggested" recommendations. According to the vast majority of schools, your high school record is the single most significant factor in your admissions decision. It should demonstrate that you've taken the most difficult courses available, and your performance in upper-level math courses is a strong indication of your ability to thrive in college.

While a score of 4 or 5 on one of the Advanced Placement calculus tests is the strongest proof you can offer of your math ability, the majority of students do not have that score available at the time of application submission.

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