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Calculus III Tips, Help, or Advice

  1. Nov 4, 2011 #1
    Hi, folks.

    I'm currently in Calc. III, and having a very hard time. Right now, each one of my home-work assignments seem to take hours. I'll spend 30 min. on one problem, get it wrong, do it again, and again, and again—until I finally get it right. It's taking huge amounts of time, and when I do finish a problem, I hardly feel as if I understand the material; moreso I just followed this very rigid set of instructions wherein I plug in the respective numbers of my problem and magically get the right answer.

    I try to think positive, put in a lot of studying time, etc., but nothing seems to be working out for me. I have a lot of homework in my other classes, and it's a choice between me falling behind here or there. I'm really discouraged.

    Although I'm putting in large amounts of time, I feel as if something I'm doing is seriously detrimental to my efficiency and effectiveness of studying. I'm struggling to get the right answer, and if I do, I understand the information just as little as when I started. So I come to you guys for help:

    What did you do when learning Calc. III? Did you have these same problems and how did you fix them? I failed my first exam, and I want to thoroughly stomp the next; is it viable to get a good textbook and try to run through that to more intimately understand the material? Do you have any suggestions for said textbook (preferably one written by a single author, not a heavily edited committee). The homework isn't helping me, and I want to finish it via whatever means I can as to hopefully steal some free time so I might actually learn Calc. III.

    Thanks for any input, ladies and gents.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 4, 2011 #2

    mathwonk

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    what are the topics, what is the book. do you go to office hours. do you discuss/work with other students. do you go to Every class. and read Every assigned section.
     
  4. Nov 5, 2011 #3
    Right now we're doing maximizing and minimizing of multivariable functions. Calculus: Early Transcendentals - 6e by Stewart is the name of the book. I go to office hours when I can. I've worked with a few students, but I've never studied well in groups. I go to class, and stopped reading the textbook about 1/4 way through the semester—it's confusing, and doesn't make a lot of sense to me unless I already understand the material (and even then, I have to sit for a while and decipher it).

    Could you answer some of my questions, too? I'd like to know what other Calc. students have done in the past.
     
  5. Nov 5, 2011 #4
    I was fairly good at calculus. Wasn't 100% smooth sailing, but I didn't really have much trouble with it. I used to make a lot of calculation errors, mostly.

    One of my math profs in grad school likes to tell the story of how he failed calculus.

    I don't know any other books for Calc 3. I suppose maybe you could try Khan Academy. Just google it. Khan Academy calculus 3.

    It's kind of hard to diagnose the problem. Obviously, you are somewhat unprepared for the class. Maybe there are gaps in your background knowledge.

    What I used to do was spend a lot of time, just thinking about why things were true. And then, I would do the problems. Sometimes, it's good to try to understand simultaneously with doing problems, but Calc 3 problems might not always get you to think about the concepts enough while you are doing them, so it might be a good idea to try to look at the statements in the section and try to figure out why they are true, first. It's pretty much useless to learn math by copying and not understanding what you are doing.

    A principle I came up with a long time ago is that anyone can understand anything if they think about it long enough. It may not be literally true, but the important thing is not whether it's literally true or not. I would just think and think until I understood. And it usually worked. At some point, if I thought about it long enough, it eventually became clear. Of course, you have to budget your time, but that's what I did, and what I still do, but I think now, the process has become shorter after so much practice. It's a bit like an athlete doing mental rehearsal. I run the argument through my mind until it becomes second nature. Often, this would involve some kind of attempt to visualize it.

    Clearly, just doing the problems isn't working for you. Despite what some people say, there's more to it than problems.

    If you can afford it, maybe get a tutor. Also, go to office hours, take advantage of any other help that is offered, or talk to other students.
     
  6. Nov 5, 2011 #5
    Maybe that's what I need to do. Stop thinking about solving the problem to get the right answer and just think about the problem itself (and the aspects of its solution).

    Thanks. :)
     
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