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Chapter 1 : Review

Technically a student coming into a Calculus class is supposed to know both Algebra and Trigonometry. Unfortunately, the reality is often much different. Most students enter a Calculus class woefully unprepared for both the algebra and the trig that is in a Calculus class. This is very unfortunate since good algebra skills are absolutely vital to successfully completing any Calculus course and if your Calculus course includes trig (as this one does) good trig skills are also important in many sections.

The above statement is not meant to denigrate your favorite Algebra or Trig instructor. It is simply an acknowledgment of the fact that many of these courses, especially Algebra courses, are aimed at a more general audience and so do not always put the time into topics that are vital to a Calculus course and/or the level of difficulty is kept lower than might be best for students heading on towards Calculus.

Far too often the biggest impediment to students being successful in a Calculus course is they do not have sufficient skills in the underlying algebra and trig that will be in many of the calculus problems we'll be looking at. These students end up struggling with the algebra and trig in the problems rather than working to understand the calculus topics which in turn negatively impacts their grade in a Calculus course. The intent of this chapter, therefore, is to do a very cursory review of some algebra and trig skills that are vital to a calculus course that many students just didn't learn as well as they should have from their Algebra and Trig courses.

This chapter does not include all the algebra and trig skills that are needed to be successful in a Calculus course. It only includes those topics that most students are particularly deficient in. For instance, factoring is also vital to completing a standard calculus class but is not included here as it is assumed that if you are taking a Calculus course then you do know how to factor. Likewise, it is assumed that if you are taking a Calculus course then you know how to solve linear and quadratic equations so those topics are not covered here either. For a more in depth review of Algebra topics you should check out the full set of Algebra notes at

Note that even though these topics are very important to a Calculus class we rarely cover all of them in the actual class itself. We simply don't have the time to do that. We will cover certain portions of this chapter in class, but for the most part we leave it to the students to read this chapter on their own to make sure they are ready for these topics as they arise in class.

Here is a list of topics that are in this chapter.

Functions – In this section we will cover function notation/evaluation, determining the domain and range of a function and function composition.

Inverse Functions – In this section we will define an inverse function and the notation used for inverse functions. We will also discuss the process for finding an inverse function.

Trig Functions – In this section we will give a quick review of trig functions. We will cover the basic notation, relationship between the trig functions, the right triangle definition of the trig functions. We will also cover evaluation of trig functions as well as the unit circle (one of the most important ideas from a trig class!) and how it can be used to evaluate trig functions.

Solving Trig Equations – In this section we will discuss how to solve trig equations. The answers to the equations in this section will all be one of the “standard” angles that most students have memorized after a trig class. However, the process used here can be used for any answer regardless of it being one of the standard angles or not.

Solving Trig Equations with Calculators, Part I – In this section we will discuss solving trig equations when the answer will (generally) require the use of a calculator (i.e. they aren’t one of the standard angles). Note however, the process used here is identical to that for when the answer is one of the standard angles. The only difference is that the answers in here can be a little messy due to the need of a calculator. Included is a brief discussion of inverse trig functions.

Solving Trig Equations with Calculators, Part II – In this section we will continue our discussion of solving trig equations when a calculator is needed to get the answer. The equations in this section tend to be a little trickier than the "normal" trig equation and are not always covered in a trig class.

Exponential Functions – In this section we will discuss exponential functions. We will cover the basic definition of an exponential function, the natural exponential function, i.e. \({\bf e}^{x}\), as well as the properties and graphs of exponential functions

Logarithm Functions – In this section we will discuss logarithm functions, evaluation of logarithms and their properties. We will discuss many of the basic manipulations of logarithms that commonly occur in Calculus (and higher) classes. Included is a discussion of the natural (\(\ln(x)\)) and common logarithm (\(\log(x)\)) as well as the change of base formula.

Exponential and Logarithm Equations – In this section we will discuss various methods for solving equations that involve exponential functions or logarithm functions.

Common Graphs – In this section we will do a very quick review of many of the most common functions and their graphs that typically show up in a Calculus class.