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I Calculus 3 struggle

  1. Dec 6, 2017 #1
    I am currently nearing the end of my Calculus 3 course and have been struggling all semester. First there is some background information. I passed Calc 1 and 2 with a B and C respectively. Over the summer I worked on my skills and felt prepared. Unfortunately my section was chosen for IBL (inquiry based learning) and this meant no lectures, just packets. Fast forward and I have 58% exam average. First exam was 62, second 40, and third 62. I need a 62 on my final to be at least at a 70%.

    What are some of the main reasons for such struggle? Besides it being IBL I was curious of what typically causes one to struggle as bad as I am? I have gone to every class, take notes when I can, read the book, use khan academy, go to the math help room, work in a study group, and still feel lost as to why I am failing. Another note is that I manage to pass most conceptual problems (I.e. the types of problems that ask what does this integral mean or what type of setup one should use) but fail computations. I can get the problem setup, but always fail at executing and finishing the problem with the right answer.

    I can’t afford to fail this course as my degree depends on it, but that is besides he point. Thanks to any and all replies!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2017 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    When you list the things you are doing, you don't list actually working problems by yourself. This is where the real learning occurs, at least for me. You need to practice working through the problems by yourself until you can do them routinely. In a study group, it is easy to say to yourself, 'Yeah, I see how they got that," but then when you are working through a problem on your own you say, "Wait a minute, how did that go again?"
  4. Dec 6, 2017 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    Your problem may be you can't see the forest for the trees. You are so focused on getting everything down and not playing with it or thinking outside the box. Calculus is meant to be used on real world problems and by looking around and using Calculus to get answers might help you overcome this issue.

    I had a classmate in highschool who did really well in English and Social Studies because he was an excellent notetaker. Me not so much. When we were in math class he would write everything down and miss the focus of the lecture. I instead sat and listened and then worked the problems and did much better than he did. I don't know why exactly but I like to think I saw the forest (bigger picture) while he saw the trees (and counted every leaf).

    Does that make sense? Does it fit your situation? If not then there may be something else going on.

    I also notice that recently I have periods of when I just can't understand some program I'm working on even one I wrote some time ago. Eventually though I snap out of the it and start to remember what I was trying to do and then it gets done. It could be the anxiety of trying to remember something that didn't get fixed well in my mind when I wrote it. Also I'm nearing retirement so it may have something to do with "summer vacation" coming soon aka senioritis as they used to say in highschool.
  5. Dec 6, 2017 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Grades of B and C in the preceding courses could be affecting things now, as well. Assuming your Calc 2 course dealt with integration, any time you have to integrate something in the current course, such as using the integral test on a series, that grade of C probably indicates gaps in your knowledge that would prevent you from doing the calculations correctly. You mentioned working on your skills this past summer, but it's hard to know what you did or whether it was as helpful as you seemed to think.
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