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Preface

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Summary: For many students, this course is a terminal course. A derivative of Precalculus, College Algebra was developed for a broad range of first- and second-year college students. Since algebra courses vary from one institution to the next, we've developed a comprehensive book that covers more ground than an instructor could likely cover in a typical one- or two-semester course; but instructors should find, almost without fail, that the topics they wish to include in their syllabus are covered in the text.

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Welcome to College Algebra, an OpenStax resource. This textbook was written to increase student access to high-quality learning materials, maintaining highest standards of academic rigor at little to no cost.

About OpenStax

OpenStax is a nonprofit based at Rice University, and it’s our mission to improve student access to education. Our first openly licensed college textbook was published in 2012, and our library has since scaled to over 20 books for college and AP courses used by hundreds of thousands of students. Our adaptive learning technology, designed to improve learning outcomes through personalized educational paths, is being piloted in college courses throughout the country. Through our partnerships with philanthropic foundations and our alliance with other educational resource organizations, OpenStax is breaking down the most common barriers to learning and empowering students and instructors to succeed.

About OpenStax Resources

Customization

College Algebra is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY) license, which means that you can distribute, remix, and build upon the content, as long as you provide attribution to OpenStax and its content contributors.

Because our books are openly licensed, you are free to use the entire book or pick and choose the sections that are most relevant to the needs of your course. Feel free to remix the content by assigning your students certain chapters and sections in your syllabus, in the order that you prefer. You can even provide a direct link in your syllabus to the sections in the web view of your book.

Faculty also have the option of creating a customized version of their OpenStax book through the aerSelect platform. The custom version can be made available to students in low-cost print or digital form through their campus bookstore. Visit your book page on openstax.org for a link to your book on aerSelect.

Errata

All OpenStax textbooks undergo a rigorous review process. However, like any professional-grade textbook, errors sometimes occur. Since our books are web based, we can make updates periodically when deemed pedagogically necessary. If you have a correction to suggest, submit it through the link on your book page on openstax.org. Subject matter experts review all errata suggestions. OpenStax is committed to remaining transparent about all updates, so you will also find a list of past errata changes on your book page on openstax.org.

Format

You can access this textbook for free in web view or PDF through openstax.org, and for a low cost in print.

About College Algebra

College Algebra provides a comprehensive exploration of algebraic principles and meets scope and sequence requirements for a typical introductory algebra course. The modular approach and richness of content ensure that the book meets the needs of a variety of courses. College Algebra offers a wealth of examples with detailed, conceptual explanations, building a strong foundation in the material before asking students to apply what they’ve learned.

Coverage and Scope

In determining the concepts, skills, and topics to cover, we engaged dozens of highly experienced instructors with a range of student audiences. The resulting scope and sequence proceeds logically while allowing for a significant amount of flexibility in instruction.

Chapters 1 and 2 provide both a review and foundation for study of functions that begins in Chapter 3. The authors recognize that while some institutions may find this material a prerequisite, other institutions have told us that they have a cohort that need the prerequisite skills built into the course.

  • Chapter 1: Prerequisites
  • Chapter 2: Equations and Inequalities

Chapters 3-6: The Algebraic Functions

  • Chapter 3: Functions
  • Chapter 4: Linear Functions
  • Chapter 5: Polynomial and Rational Functions
  • Chapter 6: Exponential and Logarithm Functions

Chapters 7-9: Further Study in College Algebra

  • Chapter 7: Systems of Equations and Inequalities
  • Chapter 8: Analytic Geometry
  • Chapter 9: Sequences, Probability, and Counting Theory
All chapters are broken down into multiple sections, the titles of which can be viewed in the Table of Contents.

Development Overview

College Algebra is the product of a collaborative effort by a group of dedicated authors, editors, and instructors whose collective passion for this project has resulted in a text that is remarkably unified in purpose and voice. Special thanks is due to our Lead Author, Jay Abramson of Arizona State University, who provided the overall vision for the book and oversaw the development of each and every chapter, drawing up the initial blueprint, reading numerous drafts, and assimilating field reviews into actionable revision plans for our authors and editors.

The collective experience of our author team allowed us to pinpoint the subtopics, exceptions, and individual connections that give students the most trouble. The textbook is therefore replete with well-designed features and highlights, which help students overcome these barriers. As the students read and practice, they are coached in methods of thinking through problems and internalizing mathematical processes.

Accuracy of the Content

We understand that precision and accuracy are imperatives in mathematics, and undertook a dedicated accuracy program led by experienced faculty.

  1. Each chapter’s manuscript underwent rounds of review and revision by a panel of active instructors.
  2. Then, prior to publication, a separate team of experts checked all text, examples, and graphics for mathematical accuracy; multiple reviewers were assigned to each chapter to minimize the chances of any error escaping notice.
  3. A third team of experts was responsible for the accuracy of the Answer Key, dutifully re-working every solution to eradicate any lingering errors. Finally, the editorial team conducted a multi-round post-production review to ensure the integrity of the content in its final form.

Pedagogical Foundations and Features

Learning Objectives

Each chapter is divided into multiple sections (or modules), each of which is organized around a set of learning objectives. The learning objectives are listed explicitly at the beginning of each section and are the focal point of every instructional element

Narrative text

Narrative text is used to introduce key concepts, terms, and definitions, to provide real-world context, and to provide transitions between topics and examples. Throughout this book, we rely on a few basic conventions to highlight the most important ideas:

  • Key terms are boldfaced, typically when first introduced and/or when formally defined.
  • Key concepts and definitions are called out in a blue box for easy reference.

Examples

Each learning objective is supported by one or more worked examples that demonstrate the problem-solving approaches that students must master. The multiple Examples model different approaches to the same type of problem or introduce similar problems of increasing complexity.

All Examples follow a simple two- or three-part format. The question clearly lays out a mathematical problem to solve. The Solution walks through the steps, usually providing context for the approach — in other words, why the instructor is solving the problem in a specific manner. Finally, the Analysis (for select examples) reflects on the broader implications of the Solution just shown. Examples are followed by a “Try It” question, as explained below.

Figures

College Algebra contains many figures and illustrations, the vast majority of which are graphs and diagrams. Art throughout the text adheres to a clear, understated style, drawing the eye to the most important information in each figure while minimizing visual distractions. Color contrast is employed with discretion to distinguish between the different functions or features of a graph.

Example figure

Supporting Features

Four unobtrusive but important features, each marked by a distinctive icon, contribute to and check understanding.

  • how-to A How To is a list of steps necessary to solve a certain type of problem. A How To typically precedes an Example that proceeds to demonstrate the steps in action.
  • try-itA Try It exercise immediately follows an Example or a set of related Examples, providing the student with an immediate opportunity to solve a similar problem. In the Web View version of the text, students can click an Answer link directly below the question to check their understanding. In the PDF, answers to the Try-It exercises are located in the Answer Key.
  • QAA Q&A may appear at any point in the narrative, but most often follows an Example. This feature pre-empts misconceptions by posing a commonly asked yes/no question, followed by a detailed answer and explanation.
  • mediaThe Media icon appears at the conclusion of each section, just prior to the Section Exercises. This icon marks a list of links to online video tutorials that reinforce the concepts and skills introduced in the section.

While we have selected tutorials that closely align to our learning objectives, we did not produce these tutorials, nor were they specifically produced or tailored to accompany College Algebra.

Section Exercises

Each section of every chapter concludes with a well-rounded set of exercises that can be assigned as homework or used selectively for guided practice. With over 4600 exercises across the 9 chapters, instructors should have plenty from which to choose.

Section Exercises are organized by question type, and generally appear in the following order:

  • Verbal questions assess conceptual understanding of key terms and concepts.
  • Algebraic problems require students to apply algebraic manipulations demonstrated in the section.
  • Graphical problems assess students’ ability to interpret or produce a graph.
  • Numeric problems require the student to perform calculations or computations.
  • Technology problems encourage exploration through use of a graphing utility, either to visualize or verify algebraic results or to solve problems via an alternative to the methods demonstrated in the section.
  • Extensions pose problems more challenging than the Examples demonstrated in the section. They require students to synthesize multiple learning objectives or apply critical thinking to solve complex problems.
  • Real-World Applications present realistic problem scenarios from fields such as physics, geology, biology, finance, and the social sciences.

Chapter Review Features

Each chapter concludes with a review of the most important takeaways, as well as additional practice problems that students can use to prepare for exams.

  • Key Terms provides a formal definition for each bold-faced term in the chapter.
  • Key Equations presents a compilation of formulas, theorems, and standard-form equations.
  • Key Concepts summarizes the most important ideas introduced in each section, linking back to the relevant Example(s) in case students need to review.
  • Chapter Review Exercises include 40-80 practice problems that recall the most important concepts from each section.
  • Practice Test includes 25-50 problems assessing the most important learning objectives from the chapter. Note that the practice test is not organized by section, and may be more heavily weighted toward cumulative objectives as opposed to the foundational objectives covered in the opening sections.
  • Answer Key includes the answers to all Try It exercises and every other exercise from the Section Exercises, Chapter Review Exercises, and Practice Test.

Additional Resources

Student and Instructor Resources

We’ve compiled additional resources for both students and instructors, including Getting Started Guides, an instructor solution manual, and PowerPoint slides. Instructor resources require a verified instructor account, which can be requested on your openstax.org log-in. Take advantage of these resources to supplement your OpenStax book.

Partner Resources

OpenStax Partners are our allies in the mission to make high-quality learning materials affordable and accessible to students and instructors everywhere. Their tools integrate seamlessly with our OpenStax titles at a low cost. To access the partner resources for your text, visit your book page on openstax.org.

About the Authors

Senior Contributing Author

Jay Abramson has been teaching Precalculus for 33 years, the last 14 at Arizona State University, where he is a principal lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Statistics. His accomplishments at ASU include co-developing the university’s first hybrid and online math courses as well as an extensive library of video lectures and tutorials. In addition, he has served as a contributing author for two of Pearson Education’s math programs, NovaNet Precalculus and Trigonometry. Prior to coming to ASU, Jay taught at Texas State Technical College and Amarillo College. He received Teacher of the Year awards at both institutions.

Contributing Authors

Valeree Falduto, Palm Beach State College
Rachael Gross, Towson University
David Lippman, Pierce College
Melonie Rasmussen, Pierce College
Rick Norwood, East Tennessee State University
Nicholas Belloit, Florida State College Jacksonville
Jean-Marie Magnier, Springfield Technical Community College
Harold Whipple
Christina Fernandez

Reviewers

Phil Clark, Scottsdale Community College
Michael Cohen, Hofstra University
Matthew Goodell, SUNY Ulster
Lance Hemlow, Raritan Valley Community College
Dongrin Kim, Arizona State University
Cynthia Landrigan, Erie Community College
Wendy Lightheart, Lane Community College
Carl Penziul, Tompkins-Cortland Community College
Sandra Nite, Texas A&M University
Eugenia Peterson, Richard J. Daley College
Rhonda Porter, Albany State University
Michael Price, University of Oregon
William Radulovich, Florida State College Jacksonville
Camelia Salajean, City Colleges of Chicago
Katy Shields, Oakland Community College
Nathan Schrenk, ECPI University
Pablo Suarez, Delaware State University
Allen Wolmer, Atlanta Jewish Academy

The following faculty contributed to the development of OpenStax Precalculus, the text from which this product was updated and derived.
Honorable Mention
Nina Alketa, Cecil College
Kiran Bhutani, Catholic University of America
Brandie Biddy, Cecil College
Lisa Blank, Lyme Central School
Bryan Blount, Kentucky Wesleyan College
Jessica Bolz, The Bryn Mawr School
Sheri Boyd, Rollins College
Sarah Brewer, Alabama School of Math and Science
Charles Buckley, St. Gregory's University
Kenneth Crane, Texarkana College
Rachel Cywinski, Alamo Colleges
Nathan Czuba
Srabasti Dutta, Ashford University
Kristy Erickson, Cecil College
Nicole Fernandez, Georgetown University / Kent State University
David French, Tidewater Community College
Douglas Furman, SUNY Ulster
Erinn Izzo, Nicaragua Christian Academy
John Jaffe
Jerry Jared, Blue Ridge School
Stan Kopec, Mount Wachusett Community College
Kathy Kovacs
Sara Lenhart, Christopher Newport University
Joanne Manville, Bunker Hill Community College
Karla McCavit, Albion College
Cynthia McGinnis, Northwest Florida State College
Lana Neal, University of Texas at Austin
Steven Purtee, Valencia College
Alice Ramos, Bethel College
Nick Reynolds, Montgomery Community College
Amanda Ross, A. A. Ross Consulting and Research, LLC
Erica Rutter, Arizona State University
Sutandra Sarkar, Georgia State University
Willy Schild, Wentworth Institute of Technology
Todd Stephen, Cleveland State University
Scott Sykes, University of West Georgia
Linda Tansil, Southeast Missouri State University
John Thomas, College of Lake County
Diane Valade, Piedmont Virginia Community College

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