1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Courses Academic Coursework Pickle - Could really use some advice

  1. Aug 15, 2016 #1
    Greetings science enthusiasts -

    Longtime lurker, first time poster here. I am in a bit of a weird position academically, and would love some pertinent advice.

    Some background:

    I am a former Firefighter/Paramedic who got a few AAS degrees (knocked out about 154 credits in 8 quarters), and recently decided to change to math/physics (something I've always dreamed of doing, was always too scared to attempt). I finished up my community college experience with a 3.97 GPA, with all of my undergraduate core work finished (literally everything except direct degree coursework).

    I was a high school dropout at 15, and tested into PRE-pre-algebra in college. I basically said F that, taught myself a bit of math, and ended up taking Statistics 1 in Winter Term 2015, College Algebra last spring, and I just finished (two weeks ago) a 5 week accelerated Calculus 1 course, which I did by skipping trig entirely.

    I received A's in all my math courses, until now it seems. I am currently halfway through an accelerated Calculus 2 course and am holding onto a mid-low B. The combination of an absolutely brutal professor who does not play the curve/EC game, put together with my poor lifelong math background and work schedule, have made this course brutal so far.

    I know I can pull a C or B in the course, but I am concerned about how much material I am truly understanding. My current schedule for Fall 2016 is Vector Calculus 1, Series Calculus, and Calc-Physics 1. I am curious if anyone thinks swapping out the Series Calculus to retake Calculus 2 is a good idea. I am very concerned with my GPA, but even more than that, I am afraid that skirting by in Integral Calc may not set me up for success in my ever-approaching upper division physics coursework.

    Would love some advice on what to do, and maybe a bit of what your experience was.

    Appreciate the time,

    Seth N.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2016 #2


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Take a step back and enroll or self educate yourself in Pre-Calc/trigonometry. You will fall flat on your face in Calc II or if you squeak by, it will be with shallow understanding. You will be asked to evaluate and perform tirg substitutions on integrals and also substitute or evaluate Taylor expansions. All of which will be new and literally Greek to you without some background in trigonometry.
    You might get by in a Calc II class for business or Social science majors as there are Calc II type course work that emphasizes other areas of calculus applications. If you are in this type of program, you might be able to succeed. However, if your end game is for a degree in a more technical field, you need to learn trig. Trigonometry is probably best learned (or more quickly learned) in a classroom. Or a good tutor. Otherwise you will likely be making mistakes without correction.
  4. Aug 15, 2016 #3

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    That's the problem. You have had professors who "play[ed] the curve/EC game" - i.e. gave you a higher grade than your understanding of the material would dictate. Now that you have a professor with a tighter correlation between grades and understanding, this weak foundation is causing problems. I think your plan to take the time fix the foundation is a good one.
  5. Aug 15, 2016 #4
    Thanks for the input. I actually am halfway through Calculus 2 (for science majors) and am holding an 85% in the course, and received an 85% on the first test, which was one of the highest grades in the class. Calculus 1 was a breeze, even with my lack of trig knowledge. I found learning the identities and unit circle was pretty straightforward. I plan on self-studying trig a bit more in the coming weeks, but I don't feel the need to pay for an entire course. I appreciate the advice, though.

    Actually, I have only encountered grade curving and EC in my college algebra class, and I ended up getting an absurd 115% overall or something like that. My statistics and differential calc courses did not have any "grade assists" at all and I did just fine. My weak foundation is the real reason I am puttering along in integral calc. I am doing fine overall in the course, but I have feelings of confusion and a lack of understanding, despite my OK grade. I appreciate the response, and I will probably just retake a full 10-week calc 2 course once I am finished with this accelerated course.
  6. Aug 16, 2016 #5


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Accelerated math and science courses are a bad idea to begin with, a 5 week calculus course sounds almost like a joke. Unless the course is meeting everyday for hours you're missing out on material that would have otherwise been covered, and not giving yourself much time to dig deeper into those concepts. An 85 percent isn't a bad grade, however, at least back when professors weren't giving everyone an A for effort in their courses. I think as though you realize now a passing grade, even an excellent grade, doesn't equate to understanding. Working to fix this is probably for the best.

    I would start by taking a trig course, there's a lot more to a proper trig course than just the unit circle and identities. Then take proper calculus courses. The fact this CC even offers such silly courses and let you skip trig in the first place also makes me think you should look for another CC that actually wants to prepare students for university to finish lower division work.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted