Would someone clarify whether you need Algebra or Trigonometry or both for Chemistry? And for which Chemistry? Regular Chemistry or Organic Chemistry? I have taken Algebra before and can catch up on it by myself. I have never taken Trigonometry. I was wondering that if Trig is not as strongly required for Chemistry can I avoid taking it? You see I want to start of my first semester with Chemistry 1 this Fall 2007 and I can’t delay taking Chemistry because of the Math requirements.

# Algebra or Trigonometry

I can’t remember ever needing to use Trig for Gen Chemistry. You do need it for physics. There shouldn’t be too much math involved in Organic.

The bigger question is what math pre-req your SCHOOL requires in order to take gen chem. At my school, you had to test into a math higher than the required pre-req or show proof of having taken the pre-req. Since I had taken the pre-req at a different university several years earlier, I had to have an advisor override the system and register me for gen chem.

Algebra is necessary for general chemistry and physics. Trigonometry is necessary for physics. As in, you really need to know it cold.

Thanks guys for your reply!

At the university I will be attending there are no pre-req for Gen Chemistry. It is nice to know that you don’t need Trig for Gen Chem. This way I can start in Fall 2007 taking Gen Chem and take Trig before Physics.

Is there anyway to study Trig on your own without taking a formal class?

Also, my school offers Physics with Calculus and without. I took Business Calculus when I did my MBA, but I suppose that pure Calculus would be quite different. I was hoping to take Physics without Calculus and still apply to Med Schools requiring Calculus, assuming they would consider the Business Calculus I have taken as equivalent to regular Calculus

It’s always possible to study trig on your own. As long as your school doesn’t require you to show proof of having taken it before taking physics and you are good at self-teaching, you could probably teach yourself the trig you need for physics.

There aren’t that many med schools that require calculus.

Challenger, if you had trigonometry in high school, you would be fine getting a workbook at Barnes and Noble and working through it.

Basically you need to know how to look at a triangle and create your own functions based thereon, to solve for the length of one side or the other.

This will be used to solve for vectors. In MCAT physics you are working with forces in two dimensions, therefore all forces can be plotted as the sum of horizontal and vertical vectors. If you know the combined force and the angle, with trig you can disaggregate into the horizontal and vertical components. If you know the horizontal and vertical components, you can determine the angle and the magnitude of the combined force. Etc etc ad nauseum.

In chemistry, the algebra is needed for stochiometry (I’ve got a given quantity of ingredients, how much product can I expect) and elementary nuclear chemistry (I’ve got a given quantity of radium, how much will I have after 10 years of radioactive decay), and other interesting mathematical relationships over time. In physics, algebra is used for basically every problem in the book, as the thousand different formulae you will memorize will need to be solved for one variable or another.

For labs: you really, really need to know how to read and produce your own graphs. (This goes for biology and o-chem too.) Many of my premed peers had a hard time with this. Thank the lord for Excel.

- Challenger Said:

At the university I will be attending there are no pre-req for Gen Chemistry. It is nice to know that you don't need Trig for Gen Chem. This way I can start in Fall 2007 taking Gen Chem and take Trig before Physics.

Is there anyway to study Trig on your own without taking a formal class?

Also, my school offers Physics with Calculus and without. I took Business Calculus when I did my MBA, but I suppose that pure Calculus would be quite different. I was hoping to take Physics without Calculus and still apply to Med Schools requiring Calculus, assuming they would consider the Business Calculus I have taken as equivalent to regular Calculus

Excellent advice from Matt and others here; my 2 cents' worth is that you shouldn't skimp on your math background unless you're a natural math whiz. You're gonna need to think abstractly in gen chem, physics, and parts of the life sciences (e.g. to understand rates of reaction in biological settings). This stuff needs to be internalized to the point where you can use the tools without stopping to think too much. When you go to take your MCAT, you are going to thank yourself for taking enough algebra & trig that you're not stopping to think every few minutes, "How do I solve for X? How do I find cosine? What's the scale of this graph?" These are instinctive skills that you develop by solving hundreds of problems over multiple semesters while under the pressure of time and fear of failing. If you can achieve the same thing through self-study, more power to you, but you must take it very seriously. Best of luck,

I would also say to please check that you are taking the correct level of General Chemistry. There is a General Chemistry for science majors that is appropriate for pre-med coursework. There is a more introductory level that may not have as much math that will not be what you need. If there’s no math pre-req for the chemistry you’re taking, that’s a sign that you should probably double-check.

I was just asking my husband who is a chemist the same question. He says Algebra and he used to teach Chem 1 students. Hope that helps. As I start my prereq’s I am taking an Algebra course and then the school I am looking at requires you to take a math placement test to get into Chem 1.

If you are self-studying, make sure you study the crap out of logs and exponents. I was very rusty on that stuff when I took gen chem and it hurt me… I had to do a lot of remedial reviewing (of logs especially) that took away from my chem study time.