Sunday, March 29, 2009

Recommended Algebra II/Pre-Calculus Books for Students

I got an email recently from a 10th grade student taking Algebra II and planning on taking Pre-Calculus next year. This student was having problems in class, and wanted recommendations for Algebra II/Pre-Calculus books or materials that contained examples, practice prob.ems and good explanations of difficult problems that this student could work through themselves.

I figured this information would be helpful to other students, as well as teachers who get similar requests from their students. Here's what I wrote:
Have you talked to your teacher about this? If they know, they might be able to help you. I know that if I had a student like you who I knew could do everything but was struggling and told me what you're telling me now, that I'd figure out a way to help them be more successful. Maybe you could take your tests after school or during lunch when you'd be able to talk out your solutions without disturbing the other students. But you have to ask!

I've been thinking about what resources I could recommend over the past few weeks and I have a couple suggestions. First, a caveat: I don't think books are the best way to learn Algebra, and a lot of them are awful, especially most textbooks. I would rather you go online to YouTube or TeacherTube and watch videos of teachers explaining specific types of problems when you need it. There are a few books, though, that I think would help:
  1. Algebra Demystified and the other books from the Demystified series.
  2. Painless Algebra.
At school, ask if you can take a copy of your textbook home. There's always a lot of extra examples and practice that you'll never get to in class. If you just want practice problems to do on your own with answer keys in the back, visit a teacher supply store and pick up a few teacher resource books. These are books full of problems that teachers use to create handouts and assignments, and they always have the answers in the back--but they usually don't include too many examples.
I keep those two books in my classroom library and point them out when students ask for extra help as well. I'd like to let any other students who may be reading this blog that I'm always open to your questions, even if they're specific "help me with my homework" ones. Be sure to try what I recommended above first, of course!

Teachers, what resources would you recommend for students struggling in these upper level mathematics classes? Leave your suggestions in the comments.