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Is Statistics Harder Than Algebra?

Many students worry about taking math courses in high school and college. Algebra and Statistics are two commonly challenging classes for students, but which is harder? 

Statistics is often harder for students than Algebra. In Statistics, students have to utilize information and skills from several different areas of math, including Algebra. However, every student has a different learning style, so you may have an easier time with Algebra.

This article will cover the difference between Statistics and Algebra classes, why one might be more challenging than the other, and the standard math course schedule. You’ll also learn about how to excel in both courses, regardless of when you take them.

What Makes Statistics Difficult

Statistics is the study of data, and it involves describing, analyzing, and mapping data, forming and testing hypotheses, making inferences about data sets, and working with probability.

The subject is used in a variety of fields, like medicine, economics, and marketing. Scientists use stats to predict rates of disease and complete medical studies. Advertisers use it to understand the minds of their viewers and assess which marketing strategies are successful. 

You also likely use statistics in everyday life to make predictions and estimate the probability of an event.

The study of statistics involves a high level of technical terminology and vocabulary like those listed above. That vocabulary must be memorized and understood to excel in a Statistics class. 

Not only that, but formulas used in Statistics are equally as complex and may overwhelm students. Last, it includes ideas and skills from earlier math courses, adding another layer of complexity.

Sources: University of Illinois Chicago and EdX

What Makes Algebra Difficult?

Algebra is a mathematical study that involves using symbols and numbers to represent situations in equations and relationships. In other words, in algebra, you use symbols to describe amounts. 

It requires thinking logically about the information, rather than just running basic computations.

As with statistics, algebra is used for real-life purposes, including determining how long it will take you to get ready in the morning or drive to school. In addition, it’s utilized in numerous fields: 

  • Jewelry-making 
  • Computer programming 
  • Research analysis 
  • Carpentry 

Algebra is the foundation for many other math areas, including geometry and statistics.

It is especially difficult for students because it seems to go against everything they’ve learned up until that point. Students learn to solve problems arithmetically, using basic computations throughout elementary and middle school. 

However, Algebra classes require a different way of thinking, one that involves qualitative reasoning and careful analysis.

Which Is Harder, Statistics or Algebra?

For most students, Statistics is a more challenging course. Whether you take it in high school, college, or both, you may have more trouble with Statistics. However, every student is different, so there is no hard and fast rule about which will take more effort.

Students often excel in Algebra after learning the basic principles. However, statistics combines several different areas, making it harder to master. 

And, to understand statistics, you must have algebraic skills, as it relies heavily on some of the same concepts. With that, many students struggle to incorporate all the different math disciplines in addition to the new material.

Order of Classes

Algebra and Statistics are both offered by most high schools and colleges. The standard order for these two math courses is an Algebra course first, then Statistics. 

In high school, most students take math in the following order:

  • Freshman Year: Algebra I
  • Sophomore Year: Geometry
  • Junior Year: Algebra II
  • Senior Year: Pre-Calculus

However, some schools allow eighth-grade students to take Algebra I. In that case, the order in high school is:

  • Freshman Year: Geometry
  • Sophomore Year: Algebra II
  • Junior Year: Pre-Calculus
  • Senior Year: Calculus or Statistics

Because Algebra is such a foundational course, the year it’s taken plays a significant role in students’ future academic success. Taking Algebra in eighth grade rather than in high school can predict success in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

If you wait until freshman year to take Algebra, it’s unlikely that you can take Statistics until college. The reason being, you have four years of high school and three prerequisites for Stats (Geometry, Algebra II, and Pre-Calc).

In college, the rule is the same. 

Freshman college students can “place out” of introductory Algebra through a placement test but otherwise have to take it before Statistics. It also depends on your chosen major, as some majors require both courses, and some do not.

How To Excel in Algebra and Statistics

If you plan on taking Statistics and Algebra in college, there are a few strategies to use to maximize your success. Because the classes are challenging, make sure you take excellent notes, go over materials every day, and utilize your teacher’s office hours.

Take Notes

It might seem like a no-brainer, but taking notes in class is essential to excelling in a math course. Though your school will likely use a textbook or workbook, writing notes on the practice problems from class can help you understand areas of challenge.

Regularly Review Material

Many students avoid reviewing their material until right before a test. While this may work on occasion, the best way to learn the material is by practicing regularly. Instead of studying right before the test, take some time to review classwork every day to every few days.

Visit Office Hours

Utilizing your teacher’s office hours is a great way to get one-on-one coaching for these tricky subjects. You can bring specific problems to your teacher and get personalized instruction for the most challenging areas, giving you a better chance at success in the course.

Source: Ohio State University


Algebra and Statistics are both very challenging courses, but Statistics is an especially difficult subject for most students. It involves using skills and concepts from several other areas of math, including Algebra. Because of that, students take Algebra first, then Statistics later on.

According to your school’s recommended schedule and placement tests, you can take Algebra and Statistics in high school, college, or both. Whatever order you take them, make sure you use your resources to have the best chance for success in these complex subjects.

Recommended Reading:

Can I Take Geometry Before Algebra 1? Key Considerations

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