How hard is Calculus?

Discussion in 'Odds & Ends' started by KBlade, Jan 10, 2011.

  1. KBlade

    KBlade New User

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    I'll be taking the first semester of Calculus next semester and I'm not really sure what to expect. I just ordered the textbook online (author is Stewart, I hear its popular) so I won't be able to preview the material for a few days. But I think its stuff like functions, limits, integrals, etc. My professor has pretty decent reviews so I'm not too worried about her teaching skills.

    The problem is I'm not very good at math. I typically get C's when I put in the minimum amount of work (doing just assigned hw), and I get B's when I really work my ass off. For some reason its impossible for me to get A's. If its any indicator of future success/failure, I took PreCalc last semester and got a C. But again, with minimum amount of work because I was swamped with other classes and work. However I'm quitting my job and taking fairly easy classes so I'll devote myself 110% to calculus.
     
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  2. subz

    subz Rookie

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    You have to practice a lot if you want to become good at Calculus ! I was always good at maths but my over confidence got the good of me. In the second semester I FAILED in Calculus-II. I repeated the course and got an A :) My tip is to practice as many exercise questions as you can. My favourite calculus book is a book by Howard Anton.The text book was Calculus, 6th Ed, by Swokowski, Olinick, and Pence

    You have to work hard and if you are in engineering then calculus is a very important subject !


    EDIT: I also focused a lot on the theoratical explanations which each chapter has in the begining :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
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  3. athiker

    athiker Hall of Fame

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    Its different for different people. My only advice is its one of those subjects most have to keep on top of as the semester goes along. It doesn't lend itself very well to cramming.
     
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  4. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    Perfectly stated :)

    I loved calculus as it was the compilation of all the tedious math classes below it. It's the type of course that will really expand your brain and change how you see the world.

    To the OP, make sure you take the calculus lab and thoroughly understand the concepts (proofs). If you don't, have a TA keep explaining them until you do.

    Also, it helps to have the same graphing calculator as most others and/or the instructor.
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
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  5. jhick

    jhick Semi-Pro

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    I'm probably not a good example, since most Calculus (with exception of the very advanced Calculus) came relatively easy to me. It helped that I had a strong high school math program and that I had 2 years under my belt before starting college. So college calc was mostly review for me.

    Now advanced physics on the hand....
     
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  6. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    So nowadays teachers get reviews? Sort of like a business? What is the world coming to?
     
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  7. Claudius

    Claudius Professional

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    The most helpful piece of advice I can give you is to read the textbook. I know students don't often do this in math classes, since instructors seem to cover everything there is to know, but trust me. It'll make your life a whole lot easier.

    And remember, when in doubt, the answer is either 0 or infinity. :)
     
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  8. r2473

    r2473 Legend

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    That's funny.
     
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  9. jhick

    jhick Semi-Pro

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    I always would say the answer is 0,1, pi, or infinity
     
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  10. XFactorer

    XFactorer Hall of Fame

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    Calc might be the first class where you have "concepts" to grasp instead of just memorizing formulae and plugging in numbers.

    Calc sucks, man. Take it from a math major. I'm a stats person myself.
     
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  11. Steady Eddy

    Steady Eddy Hall of Fame

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    Study what matters first.

    First semester calculus spends alot of time on concepts that mostly confuse people, IMO. Things like: limits, and when a function is differentiable, and delta/epsilon proofs.

    Don't despair too much about these. What's really essential is that you learn to differentiate. Know the power rule, that's about half of what you do.

    After you go on to integrate, remember, you can check your answer by differentiating. The first fundamental theorem of calculus and the second fundamental theorem of calculus won't really help you solve the problems that they give you on tests. Don't stress too much about them.

    If you can remember the power rule, and the chain rule, you can get a B or a C. Very few beginners can understand why calculus works. Focus on how to get answers.

    P.S. You won't be asked about delta/epsilon proofs again until you take advanced calculus.
     
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  12. Off The Wall

    Off The Wall Semi-Pro

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    Hardness? Somewhere between golf balls and diamonds.
     
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  13. VGP

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    Yeah, check out ratemyprofessor.com

    That's what she said.
     
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  14. krizzle

    krizzle Rookie

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    I'm a sophomore (HS) taking calc. My teacher is pretty easy:tests are 50%, participation 30%, homework 20%. I think the average test score is over 90. My overall semester score is below average :shock: at 87%
    I don't know what i'd really recommend, other than doing the homework.
    I got a C in precalc. I had a tough time with some of the math, but my sister also got diagnosed with Leukemia before the start of school.
    Make sure you understand basic operations in math—don't make stupid mistakes. Those kill me. If you don't understand something, ask everyone! Chances are someone understands.
     
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  15. samej07

    samej07 Rookie

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    I'll agree with this one too. You've got to work at it and put in the effort to learn. I did the same thing as Subz and kinda thought I could cruise through calc b/c I never had any problems in HS. I managed a C in Calc I, but I didnt really LEARN the material. That came back to bite me in the @$$ in Calc II. Got a D in there so I had to retake it. Remember, Calc II is the hardest of the 3 classes for most people, so you should really try to get a little bit of a grasp on whats going on in Calc I so you stand a chance in Calc II.

    So, just make sure not to slack off and you should be fine. If you dont understand something, theres no shame in talking to your prof or a TA until you do get it. Good luck!

    Edit: Also, it helps alot if you can buy a good graphing calculator. I recommend a TI-89, since it can do dang near anything you will come up against in Calc I-III. Unfortunately for me, the math department at my school wont allow us to use graphing calculators, not that Im bitter or anything.... :razz:
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
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  16. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    How about -1 or some expression involving e?

    Actually, isn't the answer to the odd numbered problems always in the back of the book? Or is it the even numbered problems? And, if you get your hands of the teacher's answer guide, as some frats do, you'll have the answers to all the problems.
     
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  17. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    Best answer.
     
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  18. onehandbh

    onehandbh Hall of Fame

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    Calculus seems sort like one of those computer generated prints where you
    start off really close and then slowly move back until you see an image.

    It seems difficult at first, but once you get it, it really all makes sense.

    My Calculus teacher in HS was awesome, but people either loved his class or
    hated it. We didn't use a book for the first few months. He just gave us some
    real life problems to solve and told us to break up into groups of 2 or 3 and to
    try and figure it out. What he actually was doing was giving us problems that
    required calculus to solve. It was really good b/c it forced us to really derive
    and understand calculus on a very thorough and deep level.

    Learning these problem-solving skills carried forward when
    I did a little bit of tutoring for university students in quantum economics and
    calculus. The funny thing is that I didn't take any of the economics classes but
    I was able to figure them out because you can just break them down into
    math and logic-type problems.
     
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  19. Talker

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    Just do all the homework.
    If your missing any skills in algebra, trig or geometry you'll learn all that too. When your done you should feel pretty good about yourself, it's a nice accomplishment.

    If your going into engineering or some science you'll have to become quite proficient and need to really push it hard if you have any difficulties.
    You don't want to change your path in college because you didn't put in the time that is necessary.

    Don't come back and ask for homework to be done. J/K :)
     
    #19
  20. KBlade

    KBlade New User

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    Wow thanks for all the feedback guys, I really appreciate it. I'll do my best to stay on top of all the material and do the homework.

    My final question is this: Can you recommend me some good calculus books that will help me understand the subject? Like a supplementary guide I guess.
     
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  21. Talker

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    There's some good ones that have plenty of examples and practice questions.
    Schaum's outlines is one.
     
    #21
  22. subz

    subz Rookie

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    Like I said before, I read Calculus by Howard Anton to transform an F into an A :] I used it as a supplementary book as it was not the text book. A very good friend gave it to me after my F.
     
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  23. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    You need to be strong in algebra, geometry and trigonometry before entering calculus as all those skills will be assumed.
     
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  24. itsEr

    itsEr New User

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    i'm not really sure about trigonometry, because at my school, you have the choice to take either Pre Calc, or trig, and then the next year you go to Calculus. But then again, i take Calculus next year (i'm currently in PreCalc), so can't really assume. But i agree with all of this^^^the reason you take courses before others is because you use that prior course's learnings to help!
     
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  25. RD 7

    RD 7 Rookie

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    Imagine going #2 and passing a bowling ball.

    Harder.
     
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  26. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    I don't know how much it will help (perhaps an infinitesimal amount), but some may find this video amusing or at least entertaining:


    Here are some other calculus resources that may be of help:


    Good insight on the last video -- "Calculus is a trick to let you divide by ZERO". I wish that I had access to this video series when I was learning calc. I may have studied "harder".
     
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  27. SystemicAnomaly

    SystemicAnomaly G.O.A.T.

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    #27
  28. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I have not heard of any Calculus book or course which doesn't involve trigonometry.
     
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  29. quest01

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    It can be hard the same can be said for organic chemistry.
     
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  30. jmverdugo

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    It is hard, specially because most of it is very abstract, what does it mean in the real word to differentiate? or to Integrate? can you put it in plain terms? a limit? I am a Mechanical Engineer, and I am very good in some abstract things, like applied mechanic, I used to be able to tell the resultant direction of a force just by looking the problem and I can picture in my mind a 3D piece just by looking the drawings, but I never EVER was able to understand Calculus, none of them (I, II, II, iV, and linear algebra), good thing is that in the end you will only need the final formulas, not how to get to them. JMO.
     
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  31. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Yes, it is easy to put it in plain terms. Picture derivative as slope of a curve and integral as area under a curve.
     
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  32. dlesser13

    dlesser13 Rookie

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    Precal = encompasses trig(think unit circle,etc). I am taking classes with your book(it has an integral sign on the front, should be 6th ed.) The book you have is fine, I suggest buying a cramster account and using that. It is a great tool to seeing problems explained(not just odds,evens too) Calculus works on the idea of how good your algebra is. People will tell you there isn't a lot of calculus but how well you can do the algebra associated with some problems.
     
    #32
  33. KBlade

    KBlade New User

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    Honestly my Trig is A LOT better than my algebra. I really like working with and manipulating trig functions and all that but my algebra is mediocre.
     
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  34. dlesser13

    dlesser13 Rookie

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    That isn't necessarily a bad thing as some parts of calculus focus heavily on certain trig identities and functions. I'm not saying you need to have a good background in algebra(because I faired well in calc but sucked in algebra) but you will soon find that half of solving a calculus problem is working through the algebra.
     
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  35. Kenny022593

    Kenny022593 Professional

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    I am in AP Calculus in high school right now, and it is by far my favorite math course of all time.
     
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  36. Steady Eddy

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    "How to Ace Calculus", for Calc I, and "How to Ace the Rest of Calculus" for Calc II. These books also tell you what kind of problems you can expect on the tests, they tell you what percent of classes ask these different questions.
     
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  37. North

    North Professional

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    Calculus itself is easy. This is from someone (me) who sucked at algebra and even basic arithmetic in elem. school - I never liked or was good at the detail-oriented manipulation of numbers (like being an accountant) in either. However, I rocked in geometry because it was abstract and involved ideas/concepts. Same thing with trig, to some extent. Calculus is the same - if you get the idea/concepts and are permitted to use a calculator to do the stupid arithmetic/algebra.

    I read a book, right before I took Calculus, called "How to Enjoy Calculus" by Eli S. Pine. At the time (I don't want to admit how many years ago) it was just a small orange volume that I was lucky to come across becuse it was only distributed locally in NYC (where I lived). Now you can Google the title and the guy Pine also has DVDs that go up through Diff. Equations, in addition to the book which only went through the beginning of Integral Calculus.

    Anyway, it was absolutely the best thing I ever did to help myself out in a course. The book had a quote on the cover from someone who said that he was the only one in his Calc course at Columbia Univ who understood Calculus. Well, I took Calc at Columbia and found the same thing. Once I got the concept, it was simple. Integral Calc was harder because you have to do some algebraic manipulation but conceptually, it made perfect sense.

    I've seen the "How to Ace Calculus" books and they are also excellent - probably the only other ones I'd recommend. But when I had to take a Calc refresher course many years after my first Calc course, I went back to my tattered "How to Enjoy Calculus" and aced Calc again. Btw, I don't work for the author or publisher - lol - just had a great experience when I thought I'd sink.

    Everything else is pretty straightforward. Sit in the front row. Don't talk to your friends in class. No texting in class - turn the phone off. Read the pertinent pages in the book BEFORE class. Go to every class. Do all the homework right away. Do NOT fall behind EVER. See the Prof (make appointment right away) if there is something you really just don't get.
     
    #37
  38. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    One good investment is that 4-page laminated Calculus helper. I forget the company who makes it but you can find them in most book stores.

    Barcharts

    Especially trig
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2011
    #38
  39. Mansewerz

    Mansewerz Legend

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    I actually have my AP Calc BC final tomorrow, and let me tell you this: Calculus can be a lot of work and can get quite theoretical in some places. That said, it's a lot of fun, and a lot of things make sense when you just think about it. Plus, it allows you to figure out so many things you had to guess and check or annoy yourself over earlier in a much easier manner.

    Also, your algebra skills need to be pretty good
     
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  40. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Here is a good precalculus question to see if you are prepared for calculus.

    Without having studied limits or L'Hospital's rule, can you say what the value of (x^2 - 3*x + 2)/(x - 2) will tend (i.e. approach) to as x tends towards 2?

    Answer is NOT infinity.

    I admit I could never have done this without having studied calculus or limits first.

    But if you can, you are really bright.
     
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  41. Mansewerz

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    Is the answer negative infinity? :p

    I'm not sure I could answer that last year, but I can easily now. :) It's a whole lot easier than it looks (especially if i'm not being a cocky SOB right now).
     
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  42. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    I saw something similar in a SAT math subject test guide (though I made this one up myself), so I am pretty sure it is based on something that actually appeared in the test.

    It was worded with the limit sign, rather than how I worded it.

    Which brings up this question: does the SAT subject test encompass precalculus or just algebra, trigonometry and geometry? My son will take precalc in his 11th grade, so I am not sure if he should take the test after his 10th grade.
     
    #42
  43. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Can you prove that the centroid of a triangle is its center of mass? I have never done it myself so I don't know.
     
    #43
  44. subz

    subz Rookie

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    the answer is 1 !!! its a VERY simple example of limits :) At university level, calculus is a LOT harder :(
     
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  45. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    Why don't you do #43 then?
     
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  46. Mansewerz

    Mansewerz Legend

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    Take the Math Level II subject test after 11th grade. It has precalculus in there, so I would definitely hold off. Or at least, I felt very prepared after taking precalculus honor my junior year. If he has a good math teacher who can teach precalculus well (assuming he tests his algebra skills and also provides trigonometry), then you're son should do well on the test.

    My 11th grade Precalc Honors teacher was great, so I felt confident going into the test.
     
    #46
  47. ATP100

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    When facing something you consider difficult, set small goals, do the work required to achieve them, than reward yourself. Rinse, repeat.
     
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  48. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

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    What about Level 1 test?
     
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  49. Mansewerz

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    Not sure. How strong is your son in math? I only took the level II test.
     
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  50. Claudius

    Claudius Professional

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    This is not difficult. Factor the numerator into (x-2)(x-1), cancel out the x-2, plug in 2 and you get 1.

    Let me throw out a difficult question:

    For what values of p is the series sigma (lnk)^p/k convergent?

    ∞§¶••ªº–≠‘“æ…≤≥
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2011
    #50

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