Master the Sonography Course by Mastering Algebra
Accredited programs in Diagnostic Medical Sonography always have math prerequisites, and one of them is algebra. Unfortunately, the word “algebra” puts fear in the hearts of many students who are weak in math. The requirement makes sense because algebra is used in one or more sonography courses like ultrasound physics. Any student who has a strong desire to become an ultrasound technician will make the effort to utilize strategies designed to strengthen necessary math skills.
Algebra and the Sonography Course
Algebra is a branch of math that is concerned with relationships. Mathematical statements in which letters and symbols indicate a relationship exists form the basis of this type of math, and the focus is on identifying unknown variables. Algebra encompasses:
- Equation solving
- Solving statements of inequality
- Graphing mathematical equations
- Mathematical modeling
- Combinations of mathematical functions
- Synthetic division
- Basic trigonometry
If any of these terms cause consternation, it is understandable. Some people graduate high school with a strong background in math, while others must take additional algebra skills courses before they can even begin the sonography prerequisite classes at the college level.
One of life’s truths is that some people enjoy solving equations, while others find algebra to be nothing less than confusing. However, being fearful solves nothing, while adopting strategies to strengthen algebra skills make sense. Plenty of people are logging into online forums to inquire about the odds of success in a sonography program when weak in math, and the answer usually is this: algebra is needed for the ultrasound physics course. That is true, but it goes deeper than that.
Science, Math and Technology
The CAAHEP accredited sonography program is based in math, science and technology, and all three are inter-related. Mastering algebra not only helps students pass an ultrasound physics course. It provides a solid foundation for understanding imaging results, anatomy and physiology (i.e., think in terms of identifying blood flow rates), pathology and so on. It unravels the mystery of how the ultrasound equipment works because algebraic equations and acoustic wave measurements go hand-in-hand. Perhaps it is not possible to point directly to an equation in a specific course, but possessing the knowledge increases general understanding.
The sonographer also uses algebra principles to perform certain duties, like scaling an abdominal circumference to calculate the weight of a fetus. There are various medical calculations based on algebraic calculations that are routinely performed like comparing patient data over a time interval. These are just two examples of where algebraic principles come into play, validating the importance of the algebra prerequisite for sonographer training.
Learning algebra enhances the power to think through problems, and that is critical for sonographers. Being able to systematically think through the steps of solving an algebraic equation strengthens the ability to think through the steps of the imaging process which requires starting at point A and moving to different points until the right answers are found. The role of algebra as a foundational sonography course for the entire curriculum developed by accredited sonography schools is not frequently discussed, but it should be so that students understand how it helps them succeed in the bigger program.
Strategies for Learning Algebra
There are a number of strategies available for improving student algebra skills. Students who are weak in algebra or math in general will need to try one or more of the following suggestions before tackling college algebra:
- Purchase a guidebook – A book that has good explanations and lots of practice problems with an answer key; then practice, practice, practice. Study the material as if in a class.
- Find a tutor – There are private tutors and tutoring programs available in most areas. Private tutors may be paid professionals, but it is likely most people know someone who is good at math and is willing to help. Other options include checking with the local community college, university and high schools to inquire about tutoring or workshops.
- Focus on one principle at a time – Algebra is like all branches of math because one principle builds on another. A common mistake people make is trying to absorb everything at once, and that is a recipe for frustration and an “I can’t do this!” attitude. The best approach is to learn principles in sequence, work problems until comfortable with a principle, and then move to the next principle and set of problems. For example, get comfortable solving basic equations and then move on to proportions.
- Slow down – Mastering algebra is a process. Those who have problems understanding algebra need to write each step down and not try to skip any step. Skipping causes confusion, while writing each step down reinforces learning and logical thought processes.
Sonography students are not alone when it comes to the need to master algebra so they have the knowledge required to successfully complete their program. Radiology programs and other healthcare education programs require college-level algebra as a prerequisite. Everyone has the same end goal – to learn the math skills needed to do the best job possible once employed. Once comfortable with algebra, it is time to move on to the physics for sonography course.