Courses Below Calculus at Western

The information below is intended for those whose first course in mathematics at Western is likely to be a course below the level of calculus. Students who intend to take a calculus course as their first course in mathematics at Western should consult the relevant advice posted at Calculus at Western.

Math Placement

Placement in beginning math classes is usually based on either the score obtained on the ALEKS Math Placement Assessment (MPA), or on college credit for math classes completed elsewhere. Details on taking the MPA can be found on the MPA page, which also lists the classes for which students are eligible based on their MPA score. For students with college math credits, their Transfer Equivalency Report (TER) details how the math courses completed elsewhere transfer to Western. That includes any AP, IB or other special credit-bearing courses and programs that students have completed. Note that the TER only lists courses completed by the student of which the university is aware at that point in time; it can take a considerable length of time for transcripts and grades from other institutions to reach and be processed by Western. The TER may thus not be entirely complete and up to date, and it is wise to keep a copy of unofficial transcripts readily available for consultation during course planning and registration.

Students who have not taken the MPA and who do not have any college math credits are only eligible to register for Math 99, which may be far below their capabilities and aspirations. Accordingly, students who do not have any college math credits when entering Western are strongly advised to take the MPA. The MPA score not only provides access to Western math courses, but suitable MPA scores also serve as acceptable prerequisites for classes in several other academic departments at Western; this is another reason why taking the MPA well before registering for classes at Western is highly recommended.

Our data indicates that students who register for a math class based on their MPA score have at least an 80% chance of passing that course, whereas students who register for a Western math class based on a transfer class have a substantially lower likelihood of success. The MPA score is thus a good indicator of success, and taking the MPA is recommended even for students who have completed prerequisite math classes elsewhere. Students with an MPA score below the eligibility score for the Western math course they wish to take, but who have completed an acceptable prerequisite college math course elsewhere, will still be permitted to register for the Western math course, but do so at their own substantial risk.

Course Selection

The Core Math Flowchart shows how the introductory math classes at Western are related to one another, and details the relevant class prerequisites. In many cases students will have a range of Western math courses for which they are eligible to register; we discuss below the optimal course choice for different academic objectives.

Math 99 is for students who do not qualify for any other math course, usually due to weak or very rusty mathematical foundations. The course builds algebraic skills and understanding to prepare students for Math 107, Math 108, and Math 112. This course does not generate any degree credits, but it is treated as the equivalent of a 5 credit course for the purposes of meeting the credit requirements for financial aid, dorm eligibility, tuition, and so on. It is graded as Successful/Unsuccessful, which has no effect on the student’s GPA.

Math 107 and Math 108 are designed to meet the needs of students who are taking Math courses only to satisfy the General University Requirements (GUR) in Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning (QSR). They specifically aim to meet the needs of students who may not do well in a traditional math class, and most such students really enjoy these classes. There are numerous ways to satisfy the QSR requirement; completing both Math 107 and Math 108 is one of them. These two courses are not sequential and can be taken in either order. Another way to complete the QSR requirement is to combine one of Math 107 or Math 108 with Math 112, but Math 112 is aimed at students who need a more formal math training in preparation for higher level math courses and is thus not suitable for students solely aiming to satisfy the QSR requirement. Conversely, Math 107 and Math 108 are not suitable for students who need to take more advanced math classes to satisfy the requirements for their majors.

Math 240 (introductory statistics) is a required course for several different programs, and is also another way to satisfy the QSR requirement. It is a particularly appropriate choice for many students in the social sciences, especially psychology, and other disciplines in which some basic statistical expertise is useful. Even students who do not do well in a traditional math class often do well in, and enjoy, Math 240.

Students who need a significant amount of mathematics to complete the requirements for their major will generally take part or all of the sequence Math 99 - Math 112 – Math 114 – Math 115 – Math 124, in which Math 114 – Math 115 is a two quarter precalculus sequence and Math 124 is the usual first calculus course. Passing any course in this sequence provides access to the next course in the sequence. Passing Math 118 is another way into Math 124. Math 118 and any of the courses in this sequence, except Math 115, can also be accessed by achieving a suitable score on the MPA or by transferring to Western with college credit and a suitable grade for an acceptable prerequisite course in mathematics. Note that Math 118 is an exceptionally challenging course, combining the content of two quarters of precalculus into one quarter; it is aimed at very strong and highly motivated students who have a good foundation in precalculus and simply need a refresher before they embark on the calculus sequence.

Math 115 is only accessible by those who have completed Math 114 at Western; it is not an option for students transferring to Western with credit for only a first Community College precalculus course. The only options for students coming in with only a first Community College precalculus course are to take Math 114 or Math 118, or to take the second quarter of precalculus at Whatcom Community College. For this reason we strongly recommend that students complete the entire two quarter precalculus sequence at a Community College before they transfer to Western; such students are eligible to register for Math 124 immediately provided that they get a grade of at least C+ in the second precalculus course.

Students committed to a major in the school of business, other than Economics, are advised to take the business math sequence Math 156 – Math 157. For those considering a major in the school of business but who want to keep other options open as well, Math 114 is also an acceptable prerequisite for Math 157, and Math 124 is an acceptable substitute for Math 157. Thus the sequence Math 114 – Math 115 – Math 124 is an alternative route they might consider taking, though it is longer and more challenging.

Prospective elementary school teachers will need to complete the sequence Math 381 – Math 382 – Math 383. Only students who have been admitted to the Woodring College of Education, and who also have a suitable MPA score or a grade of at least C for a college math course at the level of Intermediate Algebra or higher or who have passed Western’s Math 112, are eligible for this sequence. These courses are typically not an option for entering freshmen, and prospective students should consult with a faculty advisor well before they intend to take Math 381.