Diff Eq or Calc 3?

  • Thread starter Nick Raaa
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I really do apologize if this is in the wrong place.

A long story short, At my school Calc 3 is a 4 creidt course with a lab and I really don't have room to fit it in my schedule next semester. But I can fit in Elementary Diff Eq.

My question would be is it better to take a (much) harder class such as Diff Eq or take a semester off of math and take Calc 3. How much of a step up is Diff Eq from Cal 3?

As for a little about myself:

I'm in Calc 1 right now and taking Calc 2 over summer. I'm decent at Calculus and I can learn most stuff so far through working pretty hard at it. I'm no 'natural' at it but I can learn.

Thanks for any help
What do you mean taking a semester off of math? Do you see taking Calc 3 as not taking math at all, or?

An elementary course in Diff Eq, isnt really that hard, but it depends on the way it is presented though. Do you know whether such a course at your university is a proof based one, or just an introductory one?

If it is an introductory one, i think you can handle it even withought Calc 3 (taking them concurrently would help of course), as long as you are pretty stiff in Calc 1, and 2.
Once again, if neither Calc 3 nor Diff Eq, are proof based, then, i personally don't think of one as more difficult than the other, they are probbably at the same level of dificulty.
What I mean by that is next semester I wouldn't take any sort of math, then the following semester I would take calc 3

The course description reads: "Introduces ordinary differential equations, adapted to the needs of students in engineering and the sciences"

I hate to be vauge, but thats as much as I know about the course. With the exception of a few frieds who have said the course is pretty rough.
At my school Calc 3 was tougher than ODE because calc 3 depends on visualizing 3 dimension while ODE is more like the calculus that you have done so far (but yes its more advanced).
You only need to know Calc 2 to take ODE. However, Calc 3 is an easy course IMO. You can probably learn it yourself easily.

Edit: I have to disagree with isabelle. Calc 3 is just like Calc 1 but you add an extra variable or two. I also think that it is MUUUUCH more fun and interesting that ODE.

For Physics, both are crucial. I would definitely choose calc 3 so you can learn like this:

Calc 3-> ODE->Partial differential equations

instead of
ODE-> Calc 3-> PDE


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Which are difficult and which are easy depends on how the student is as well as how a course is taught. Other than that, the sequence, "Calc 3-> ODE->Partial differential equations" is probably the best one. From what I recall about Calculus 3, we studied vectors in three dimensions, partial derivatives and multiple integrals, and we were blasted with various sequences and series.

Just note, any particular Calculus course may be much more difficult for one person than for another person.
Just as a side note which I probably should have inclueded earlier is that I'm not a physics major and that all I really need is up to Calc 3 or ODE as a direct substitute.


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It is not just a matter of Differential Equations being "harder" than Calculus III. Differential Equations uses concepts and methods from Calculus III. It should be a prerequisite for Differential Equations. I would want a person to have taken Linear Algebra before Differential Equations also.

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