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Calculus final in 24 hours - failure imminent - need some advice

  1. Jun 24, 2009 #1
    Hi everyone, I guess I'm coming to that point of realization that I'm not going to pass my calc course. I don't really know why I'm writing this, maybe in the hope that someone on this forum may have been in a similar spot and could advise me about their experience. I've never really failed anything before so this is a kick in the pills. I suppose I set myself up to fail by attempting to take it in summer session (instead of a 3 month course it's compressed into 2) and when it's already been 10 years since I took precalculus. Even in precal, I didn't apply myself -I assumed that I'd never want to have anything to do with math in my career so I simply tuned out half of grade 12 precal, never studied or did homework, and squeaked out with a 54%. However, times have changed, I've gone back to school, and have an idea what direction I want to go in (Comp Sci or Physics). But half of this recent calculus course I spent teaching myself precalculus, and after that I attempted to catch up on my own in the time remaining, but to no avail. I guess I just need some guidance on where to go from here. I plan on taking calc again in the fall (I think a competing university might offer a 6 month single variable course). I plan on working through problems in the Stewart Precalculus textbook before that, by way of a course outline for precal I found on the Rutgers University website. I'm thinking about picking up Spivak's Hitchhiker's Guide to Calculus as a way to prepare myself for the concepts of Calculus, and then I've got the Stewart's 5th ed Single Variable Calc text. I know a lot of the people on this website think Stewart as watered down, but I'm a very visual learner - if you can think of another text that's maybe even more watered down, I'd appreciate it, everyone needs to start somewhere.
    I honestly think that university is the place for me, but I've never really received a blow to the ego like this before. Anyways, i guess I should dive back into the text and see what I can do. Thanks for any responses.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 24, 2009 #2
    Two pieces of advice. Firstly, don't get overly stressed out about failing the course. Grades aren't everything, and you can always retake the course later (as you are saying). Also, I've known some really smart people who have just failed classes badly before, so it sometimes happens even to the best of us.

    Secondly, I know you think you would do better with conceptual learning, but this is really not the way to go with mathematics. It's very difficult, but you must try to focus on problem solving. It's fine if you want to read conceptual stuff for fun, but don't fool yourself into thinking that you are gaining anything that will help you pass your class. Introductory calculus classes are solely and completely focused on being able to solve problems. The only way you can prepare for it is to do as many practice problems as possible. Of course, you may need to do some reading in order to figure out how to solve the problems. But this is only the very first step. You will want to start with easy problems and then move on to harder problems in order to become best prepared. Mathematics is really difficult to learn at first, but really, there is no way to get around this aspect of it. Good luck, just persevere, it gets easier with time.
  4. Jun 24, 2009 #3
    First of all, don't panic (I myself tend to panic a lot. it never helps, though). You might still pass your course if you stay calm. Then again, failing is not a tragedy. The important thing is that you know what you want to do with yourself.

    Actually, I've been in these situations: the night before the exam comes and I feel I know nothing and will most definitely fail. Usually this was just panic, but sometimes I really wasn't prepared. I even imagined how my examiner would laugh while reading my stupid answers. But somehow I always passed, with decent grades, too, all through my undergraduate. The only (so far) time I failed was in graduate school, a course I actually thought I knew very well! This failure came as quite a shock. Anyway, I did the course again, passed it (not with a brilliant grade, though), and am now looking forward to throw it out of my degree as I'll finish it - it wasn't even an obligatory course.

    This story is just to cheer you up. And I wrote it to cheer myself up, so, hopefully, we're all better off!

  5. Jun 24, 2009 #4
    Don't worry about it. I failed calc II and calc III, it certainly wasn't the end of the world. You will just have to take them again, and hopefully with a better professor.
  6. Jun 27, 2009 #5

    failing it may not be a bad thing if you don't really understand what you are doing. i recall i didn't attend most of my 1st year calculus classes, but crammed and studied specific areas which just happened to show up on the exam. i pulled off a 75% for the whole course. however, i didn't know it well enough and paid the price in advanced calculus (still passed it but just barely from what i remember). looking back on all this, i think i really missed out on the benefit of learning something for the sake of just getting through.

    in friendship,
  7. Jun 27, 2009 #6


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    In regards to Stewart:

    I think Stewart is a good introductory calculus book for engineers and physical scientists.

    Stewart may not be the ideal book for a math major to use, as it is not very rigorous and light on proofs, but I personally think the book does a good job of presenting calculus for students looking to do applied math.

    I started calculus with Stewart and am now going to grad school for a PhD in physics, so I think it does its job. If you can work through the problems in Stewart I think you'll be better prepared when your next calculus course starts.
  8. Jun 27, 2009 #7
    which stewart version he has several ?
  9. Jun 27, 2009 #8
    If you fail the course consider taking pre-calc, and then try calc again. I took pre-calc when I started my program - I probably would have done terribly in calc had I not done that, especially in a summer course, but I got As in both since I took the pre-calc to start out. I had taken precalc in high school before but I got a D in it because high school isn't really a learning environment its more of a social call; I can't do well in a non-serious business environment.

    No one is going to give a **** if they see you failed calc I and then got all A's and B's on all your math stuff after that (because you backed off a bit with pre-calc and came back into it full force).
  10. Jun 27, 2009 #9


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    My experience is with the 5th edition.
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