Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Considering Calculus.

  1. Mar 30, 2008 #1
    Hi everyone!

    I'm currently a junior in a college prep high school and I'm very interested in taking AP Calculus AB next year, however, I'm very nervous about getting involved in something as complicated as calculus, and I'm not to sure if I'm qualified enough.

    My math background for this year is honors algebra 2/trigonometry. It is comparable to many precalculus level classes in public schools, however, at my school I'd be expeced to take a class called honors precalculus, which covers limits and might satisfy my want to learn calculus. So far this year I've covered equations (basic, complex fractions, polynomials, quadratics, etc.), inequalities, functions (rational and polynomial too), graphing, exponential and logrithmic functions, trig functions of angles, and I'm starting on basic unit circle stuff. I've also covered things like synthetic division, and know the trig ratios and common angle values. I'm also entrolled in honors physics which is basically AP Physics B at a less accelerated pace (we use the same book and material but skip over a few sections)

    I'm worried about a couple of things, and need to be told if I should study them independantly prior to taking the class; these things are sequences and series, polar coordinates and equations, analytic trigonometry, matrices and determinants, conics, and some probability.

    I'm also planning on taking AP English Literature, Honors Government, and AP Physics or Biology. Would this be too much with AP Calculus?

    Any input on whether taking calculus with a accelerated algebra 2/trig and accelerated physics background would be great. thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 30, 2008 #2
    I don't really remember learning anything in Precalculus that was terribly useful in Calculus. Calculus can be learned with just knowledge of algebra and trigonometry.

    "I'm worried about a couple of things, and need to be told if I should study them independantly prior to taking the class; these things are sequences and series, polar coordinates and equations, analytic trigonometry, matrices and determinants, conics, and some probability."

    Sequences and series usually aren't even covered in a high school calculus class, and if they are they are usually used to define the integral (my high school taught us that an integral was an infinite sum of Riemann sums, but here in college they didn't even introduce sigma notation until calculus 2), so you shouldn't need to worry about that. Polar coordinates you will probably not use. Analytic trigonometry is useful. Matrices and determinants, no. Conics, no. Probability, no.
  4. Mar 30, 2008 #3
    LOL no, dude that's completely different stuff. Well, not different, but overkill for simple Calculus.

    I didn't learn Sequences and Series until 3rd quarter Calculus, taught during the Calculus class. Polar co-ordinates I can't remember... either during Calc 1 or Calc 2/3 or something. But they are easy to pick up, trust me. All you need is a basic understanding of trig. I can't tell you what analytical trig even is. I learned matrices and determinants in Linear Algebra, which came after 3 quarters of Calculus for me and most of my friends. I read about conics but luckily never had to do them, and (simple) probability is simple, but not needed for Calculus.

    All I took before taking Calculus in High School was trig. It was enough.
  5. Mar 30, 2008 #4
    It depends. What grades do you usually get in your math classes? Calculus is harder than precalc but its certainly doable.
  6. Mar 30, 2008 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    High School calculus is realllly not that hard. Go for it!
  7. Mar 30, 2008 #6
    thank you everyone for replying. As far as grades go, near the begining of the first semester I was getting a c+, but now I'm at a b+/a - and I'm pretty decent in algebra from this class and all the math we do in physics. I'm also going to a public school next year so I think that the calculus class I'd take there would be considerably easier, I think I'm going to go for it. thanks again.
  8. Mar 30, 2008 #7
    Calculus isn't really complicated. It just gets a bad rap from people that don't know calculus. There are two parts to calculus: Differentiation and Integration.

    The first part, differentiation, you've already done. It is taking a function and finding the slope(called derivative). But in calculus, you will do it with more than just straight lines.

    The second part, integration, is just the opposite: you start with the derivative and find the function.

    Check out Bikini Calculus. ;)
  9. Mar 30, 2008 #8
    You said you want to take ap physics, if you're going to take ap physics c then you need calculus. Especially for E&M
  10. Mar 30, 2008 #9
    You forgot limits.

    Anyway, I got a C- (yes, C-) in trigonometry and ended up with an A in Calculus. Trig had more memorization, which I still don't remember all too well, and that was the year I got my shiny new TI-83 calculator -- with games! So I didn't pay much attention. Calculus made a lot more sense for some reason.
  11. Mar 31, 2008 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Of course, it depends what you want to go on and study in university. If you want to study something like politics, or English, then I don't see the point in taking calculus. On the other hand, if you want to study maths then I would imagine you would have to take calculus beforehand in high school, wouldn't you? Don't worry about it being "impossibly difficult"-- there wouldn't be a course if it was!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook