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Community College Woes

  1. Jul 21, 2010 #1
    So, I'm in community college because homeschooling screwed my education over. I'm trying to transfer into Texas A&M, but it's beside the point at this stage. Due to my inadequate homeschooling, I had to take the equivalent of algebra I, algebra II, and precalculus in community colleges.

    Now I'm taking calculus I at another community college, and I feel pretty ripped off. My community college mathematics education did not adequately prepare me for such things as epsilon-delta proofs of limits or finding infinite limits or calculating derivatives. I'm finding that, while I have a pretty decent innate understanding of algebra, it's very difficult to learn these new calculus concepts because they are more intensive than anything I encountered at community college (employing the same concepts, but far, far longer). I've also encountered situations where I was wholly unaware of a mathematical technique (systems of equations, for instance). I am in week two of this five week calculus class, and I'm worried I won't get above-average grades in this class (my first test -- a multiple choice test -- earned me an abysmal 75, which constitutes the lowest grade I've ever gotten in a math class).

    Not only that, but it won't stop at calculus I. I'll need to take calculus II, calculus III, and ordinary and partial differential equations (I'm transferring into an engineering program). I'll be taking the calculus sequence at this second community college. Judging by the rigor of my algebra and precalculus classes, I'm afraid I'll be unprepared to perform engineering calculations with a potentially shaky calculus background, not to mention not-so-great algebra.

    I'm really not sure why I posted this, except to wonder what I can do to rectify this rip-off, and to ask whether others have encountered similar problems with community college education, and to ask if it was possibly a mistake to take a calculus I course over five weeks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 21, 2010 #2
    Hey, don't stress too much. Keep studying hard, go back and review the basic algebra you feel shaky on, there are plenty of sites that do a good job recapping that stuff. The first 3 weeks or so of calc I is very difficult, I felt horrible after my first test as well. I did have a fairly good math background and I scored a 78, previously I had never scored below a 93 in a math class. I was heartbroken and wanted to give up, but I persevered. At the end I ended up with an A. I found outside help, math lab, friend, classmates, and probably one of the biggest helps was Adrian Banner's video series and book : The calculus lifesaver. He basically lectures over most of the Calc I,II,III material and he is much better at it than any professor I've had in math thus far. The videos are online and free, so go check them out. Also once you start in on the power rule, everything suddenly becomes much easier for the rest of the term on, once your not trying to solve derivatives by definition. Good Luck.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
  4. Jul 21, 2010 #3
    It's not really a big deal, just figure out what "pre-calculus" you need to know for your course. In remedial courses instructors often need to skip over material because most of the students won't an interest in continuing on to higher mathematics so they can't cater to the 5-10% that "might".

    Here is a page that should clear up any issues you have in your foundation:

    One of the big problems with calculus in America is that many students lack proper foundations and so they find calculus challenging for the wrong reasons. In most calculus texts, the first 1 or 2 chapters should deal with "pre-calculus"(which includes everything you should know before doing calculus). Also, it would be helpful to know what textbook you are using.

    You need to be comfortable with exponents/logarithms, trigonometric identities, graphic functions, and algebraic manipulation. I think the difficulty of calculus depends upon how good your "pre-calculus" is. The concepts in calculus itself are, I think, much simpler than those in pre-calculus math. The only problem is that you must use your pre-calculus skills to simplify and manipulate a problem before you can use calculus techniques to compute the answer.

    Think of pre-calculus as the body and engine of a car, and calculus is just the wheels. The wheels aren't a big deal, but the car(a calculus problem) won't run without them.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
  5. Jul 21, 2010 #4
    Yes, I am in a very similar situation, except I have not taken calculus I, yet. I took 2 courses of remedial math yet I learned more on my own than from those 2 courses. The 2 classes were watered-down and nearly worthless but the community college I attend happily charges ~$800 for each; add to that, the cost of the book (not) used during class and you are looking at $2000 just for those two worthless classes.

    The sad part is that remedial classes are purposely taught that way because they are cash-cows for community colleges: these classes are generally taught by a graduate student, TA, or adjunct who is getting paid peanuts for her/his efforts and probably does not care that much; the classes begin with ~30 students and by the end of the semester no more than 10 students are left while those that dropped out are forced to retake the class again if they wish to continue their studies (remedial classes are gatekeeper courses). In the meantime, the comm. college's investment is minimal and they make a killing on those students who drop out and retake. If one learns anything, is by accident. Community colleges are in the business of teaching nothing but quick, two-year vocational/trade careers (careers that will force you to return later on to retool your skills).

    My advise is to buy good algebra, geometry/trigonometry books and self-study; if you like, you may also hire a tutor from time to time for the sections that give you trouble. For your particular case, I would recommend dropping the class and retaking it later on after you solidify your knowledge.

    Note: Most individuals on these forums will not be able to assist you effectively because many of them never had to take any remedial classes. Those who have taught remedial classes might be able to assist you best.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
  6. Jul 21, 2010 #5
    At some point you need to stop blaming other people and just go out and take whats yours yourself. Most people have some sort of difficulty in their academic career somewhere along the line.

    For me, my parents decided buying an $80,000 boat was more important than paying for my college. They made too much money for me to get any kind of loan or grant, so I wound up paying for community college with an entry-level full-time job. I ended up dropping college because I was broke. It wasn't until years later, when I could be considered an independent student (and where I no longer had an entry-level job) before I went back.

    Everybody has their problems, just take what you're given and run with it as far as you can.
  7. Jul 21, 2010 #6
    Math is hard. It just is. If you think you can get through any decent engineering program (Texas A&M ranking in the top 25 in the nation IMO), 75 percent on a test is not bad. Trust me, it gets harder, before it gets easier. Calculus I and II was a serious struggle for me, but if you want it bad enough, you'll get through it.

    "If you want something bad enough, never give up (and take a boost when offered).

    Brick walls are there for a reason. And once you get over them - even if someone has practically had to throw you over - it can be helpful to others to tell them how you did it."
    Randy Pausch

    If you're curious, take a look at what Professor Pausch (CMU) went through. It will make your situation seem much more manageable.

    FYI, homeschooling is not what made you have a bad education. It was your teachers. I was home schooled until ninth grade, and I benefited enormously from it. I am going into college with all of my college math courses completed (Calculus I,II, III and Ordinary Differential Equations).

    Your comments may apply for your situation, but don't imply that homeschooling is a rip-off or that all home schoolers go to community colleges.
  8. Jul 21, 2010 #7
    I'm in my first year at a "state" college. I qualified for a few Universities, but this college is cheaper and offers more online courses which are better for me right now. I feel a little discouraged about the student body, and I often wonder if the education is "easier" as a result of things I've seen. I still put forth all my effort, but I talked to some other "A" students there, and I think if I put forth less effort, I would still be able to get good marks. It makes me wonder if I should just go to the university even though it would be a big inconvenience. I don't know if what I'm seeing is just the current trend in education, community college or otherwise.

    Anyways, I think you're doing the right thing in asking for other sources to self study. I think it's always best to supplement your education as much as you can.
  9. Jul 22, 2010 #8
    I'm actually transferring to Texas A&M from a community college too! I know what you mean about community colleges sometimes having a low quality of education. If you do not feel comfortable with Calculus I after you finish the class, you might try taking it again during the regular semester, perhaps with a different teacher. Five week classes can turn even easy classes into a nightmare and calculus isn't exactly an easier class, especially not somebody of your mathematical background. Keep in mind that the concepts in calculus I will be used heavily in the rest of the math classes you need to take and so if you pass the class with a C, keep in mind that it might benefit you to retake the class again.

    On the other hand, teaching yourself calculus would be easier than re-taking the class and there are a lot of great resources out there that might help you, as mentioned by a few other posters.

    Sorry for rambling on for so long and I hope that you do better in Calculus! Good luck!
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