Both the ACT and the SAT assess the math skills that students acquire in general high school math classes. But test-takers can further their mathematical knowledge and skills by studying other subjects in addition to math courses like algebra. This even includes some classes that certain high schools may classify as electives.
Below is a sampling of three nonmath subject areas through which students can indirectly prepare for math sections on the ACT and SAT:
- Natural sciences.
While business is sometimes classified as a social science, it combines elements from accounting, economics and statistics – all of which heavily involve numbers. Introductory business classes tend to cover core financial topics like taxation and interest rates, and these topics give students a chance to practice with arithmetic, fractions, percentages, etc.
Business students can also expect to work with simple graphs and formulas that express the relationship between variables, such as price and demand.
Not all business courses are created equal, however. Some concentrate on the social side of the discipline. For instance, certain high schools may offer courses about the psychology or history of business. Despite their merit as captivating course offerings, such classes are less likely to hone the math competencies that are tested on the ACT and SAT. As such, students aiming to improve their math skills should look for business courses that emphasize aspects like accounting or analytics.
Engineering is a discipline that combines science and technology to streamline the design, building and use of structures, engines and machines. For students with a knack for building and problem-solving, an engineering course can be quite stimulating. Since the discipline depends heavily on physics – and physics is a math-based discipline – a class in engineering can also expand math skills.
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Engineering applies many of the most basic laws of physics. Imagine, for instance, that an engineer must build a highway entrance ramp, which is essentially an inclined plane that is meant to sustain traffic. To design the ideal and safest ramp, the engineer calculates the varying magnitude of forces such as gravity and friction when the ramp is set to different angles. Perhaps more complicated than they sound, force formulas require arithmetic and basic trigonometry, which both happen to be areas tested on the ACT and SAT.
Natural science is a branch of science that deals with biology, geology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and other aspects of the physical world. Any natural science is bound to include math concepts that appear in some form on the ACT and SAT. Think of the frequent use of scientific notation to express vast distances in astronomy, physics equations for light and optics that involve sine and cosine, or the role of probability in biological inheritance.
Bear in mind that some of your high school’s course offerings may be natural science electives in disguise. Can you figure out which sciences lie at the heart of these intriguingly named courses?
- The Science of Cooking and Baking
- The Search for Life in the Universe
- Animal Behavior
The answers are: chemistry for The Science of Cooking and Baking; astronomy for The Search for Life in the Universe; and biology for Animal Behavior. School administrators sometimes rely on clever course titles to pique student interest in subjects that students may otherwise perceive as boring.
If you are unsure whether a course will further your math skills, ask the course instructor directly, request to look through the course syllabus or research the course textbooks.
Not a math lover? No worries. There are many options for sharpening your ACT and SAT math skills outside of math class.