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Before Learning Calculus-Help-What I need To Know

  1. Mar 20, 2009 #1
    I know that it is essential to learn calculus in physics but then i asked myself how am i going to do that? I thought that you needed to know pre-calculus then i can go ahead and learn actual calculus, until i heard pre-calculus doesn't prepare you for calculus. So what exactly do i need to know? Can someone help me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2009 #2


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    You basically need Intermediate Algebra and Trigonometry. The Pre-Calculus course is designed to increase your algebraic power and help you rigorously review Trigonometry. In case your "Intermediate Algebra" course did not include sequences & series, the Pre-Calculus will include them. Also, the Pre-Calculus course, if done well, includes a good introduction to limits. Again, the essential requirements to qualify for Calculus 1 are Intermediate Algebra and Trigonometry.
  4. Mar 20, 2009 #3
    I may be full of ****, but I personally believe that all the prep you really need (i.e. all I had) is a good handle on Algebra. Oh, and Trig. Learn trig.
  5. Mar 20, 2009 #4
    you should have a good handle on all mathematical topics taught through highschool, this includes algebra I and II (functions, quadratics, linear systems, word problems, polynomials, factoring .....) know geometry well (slopes, areas, distance of lines, pythagorean theorem.....), this includes trigonometry know all of the trigonometric functions and how to solve problems with them.
  6. Mar 21, 2009 #5
    You really just need a good handle on algebra. But that's only needed to complete a calculus problem. Once you figure out which calculus concepts are relevant for a particular problem, the rest is basically algebra.

    The first calculus course I took did not require the background in trig I had. Knowing the unit circle extremely well and proving many contrived identities was not too helpful. Basically, the trig background that I actually needed was very basic. The pythagorean identity and its immediate derivable identities are perhaps most helpful. If you take a rigorous enough calculus course, you will derive everything in trig through calculus anyways.
  7. Mar 21, 2009 #6
    I saw someone here mentioning that learning Analytic Geometry is very helpful.
  8. Mar 22, 2009 #7
    I definitely agree to that. We had an intro to calculus in October and November and now I just sat a test in intro to analytical geometry. I wish it had been the other way around.
  9. Mar 22, 2009 #8


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    Algebra, Trigonometry (not essential, but is a good way to get familiar with the idea of a function), Analytic Geometry (basic stuff about working with Cartesian coordinates).

    This should be enough to get started on the basic ideas of calculus.
  10. Mar 22, 2009 #9
    In my class a relatively thorough knowledge of trigonometry wasn't essential until integration; however, one could easily make problems which require trig in differential calculus.
  11. Mar 23, 2009 #10
    Have you taken Geometry? I would suggest that you really know your Algebra, and some trigonometry (sin, cos, tan, unit circle). Physics deals with a fair amount of angles, and a ton of algebra. There are plenty of books out there that can help, if you need refreshers in certain topics.
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