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

Do I need Calculus?

  1. Jan 11, 2007 #1
    I am currently a sophmore in high school; I am currently taking Chemistry and Algebra II. I am taking Biology II, Molecular genetics, and Trig next year, and in my senior year, Physics, Molecular Genetics II and Forensic Science. I am in band, which take two credits a year, and Health Academy, one credit a year, except for senior year in which you leave for two periods of the day to intern at local health care facilities. The Health Academy is designed to introduce students to all careers in the health care field and learn about the body and organ systems. I am planning to be a veterinarian.

    I was wondering if I should find some way to fit Calculus into my schedule? I like science and am not crazy about math, but I am pretty good at it and obtain good grades in both subjects. I know that math and science are critical to a proffesion in health careers, but is it really a necessary course that I will need? Will it for sure help me in college math and science classes? Not that I'm trying to be arrogant, but everyone says that you need as much math as possible, but can anyone give me a hard case in which you will need math besides measuring and mixing medicines? I can't think of any. It will probably look good to have it on my college app., but I don't want to drop a more interesting class to take it if it will make no difference and be of no use.

    What is it exactly that is tought in Caculus? I know that you learn about staight lines, and differential equations, but I am clueless as to what else. Also, is it a terribly difficult class, or is most of it understandable? I need some advice. Anyone taken it that liked it and think it helps in the future? Should I, or should I not take Calculus?
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 11, 2007 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    What do you intend on studying in college? If you've studying maths/physics/chemistry then, yes, a prior knowledge of calculus will be advantageous. So, if you have time, then yes, go for it.

    I (and most of my classmates) found calculus quite hard going to start with, especially since my teacher wanted to teach the principles and not just "how you do things", but after a few weeks, you start getting the hang of it. So, basically, if you're going to study maths in college, then I would learn it now, enabling you to concentrate on harder stuff when at college.

    However, if you don't intend to study any maths then, no, unless you're specifically interested, then there's not much point in trying to squeeze it into your education now.
  4. Jan 11, 2007 #3
    Since you're only a sophomore and not really sure what you want to do(class wise), why not wait until next year to take calculus? You could even wait until your senior year! The point is that if you aren't able to somehow test out of it in college, you'll probably have to take it again anyway. Many, if not all, vet med programs require calculus. You'd probably be better off to wait until your junior or senior years to take it so then if/when you take it again in college it will still be relatively fresh in your mind.
  5. Jan 11, 2007 #4
    Your high school offers Molecular Genetics? lucky

    I'm not sure a veterinarian would need calculus, but you could always just learn it just for the heck of it =]
  6. Jan 12, 2007 #5
    Calculus is something everyone should at least have a handle looking at; let me just put that out there for a moment.

    Ok, now that you have that in your head the question as to wheather or not you should take the course becomes and issue. If you plan on practicing medicine, and have absolutly no interest in research or a deeper understanding than just working on the patient, than from many pre-med and pre-vet students (and there advisors), no you do not need calculus. Should you take it? Yes it is recommended that you have knowledge in the topic and that you understand the general principles. Personally, if I were you I would take it in high school just to have the benefit of knowing it before I got to college, in case the advisors told me to take calculus instead of statistics.

    Now if it comes down to sacrificing a more interesting (yet rigorous, as this matters for applications to college), then I would take the interesting and rigorous course over the calculus course while in high school.

    There is the third option to all of this, however, if you school has a program where you can attend a community college for classes than take advantage of it and take a night calculus course. This gives you the best of both situtations, and gets rid of a calculus requirement in college if you find the material doesn't quite make tremendous sense to you and gives you (if it your high school supports it) a high school credit in calculus.

    Additionally, if the community college through your high school option doesn't work out, to prevent sacrificing something interesting and rigorous, you can always take a shortend summer course on calculus at the local community college (a word of warning though, condensed courses are very intensive, you will not have a life for about 3-5 weeks, depending on the school...though if you do it right, you can get weekends to not be too heckic).

    Hope this helps.
  7. Jan 12, 2007 #6
    I wouldn't push yourself tooo hard just to have calc in HS. It seems like your school has a wonderful science dept. And assuming your classes are challenging and taught well, Then I think taking calc first semster in college shouldn't be too hard for you. I assume you are going into some medical field based on the calsses you want to take and that you'd like to be a vet? You will have to take calc at some point, (i'd assume prolly calc 1 and 2 at very least) but I think you should be well prepared after 2 bio courses and 2 molecular genetics courses, phyiscs and chem.
    Your transcripts will look great with all those science courses, and as long s your math up to but maybe not including clac in highschool has decent grades, you should have no trouble at all
    thats my 2 cents but i'm just a freshmen physics major having just completed Calc 3 now moving into Linear Algebra, I hate all things biology
  8. Jan 12, 2007 #7
    I didn't learn Calculus at HS, i thought i had a good enough grasp of it to opt for other subjects. It put my at a disadvantage in studying Chem/Phys (my third option being Biology as opposed to mathematics). So my advice would be to do as much maths as you can.
  9. Jan 12, 2007 #8
    Differnetial Equations is another class. You learn about straight lines in Algebra, or maybe you are refereing to Linear Lagebra-again, its not calculus, itsa different class.

    Calculus is many things but to sum it up, its the study of change. Think about how you calculate the area of a square. Base times height right? But what if the top was not straight, what if it was curved? You would need calculus to find the area.

    I think that everyone should be exposed to calculus. If for nothing else than to just not have to ask what calculus is!

    All kidding aside, see a counselor at the school that you plan to attend. See if calc is part of the cariculum. They would be able to give you a much better anwser as far as whats required, what they look for and if you should take calc over a bio course.

    Does your school have pre-calc? If you still have to take trig, you might have to take pre-calc before you can take calc anyways.
  10. Jan 12, 2007 #9
    Calculus is the study of the limiting process and its vast applications. Everything in calculus is a limiting process....you will learn more about the limit when you take a calc course. :D Physics, chemistry, and engineering are all impossible without calculus.

    It's the most fascinating couse you could take at the high school level....much more fascinating than algebra, trig, or statistics.

    And most high schools will bypass the pre-calc requirement if you've had algebra and trig and performed well in both. Pre-calc is just a review course of algebra and trig (with a brief preview of limits and derivatives), and it's a waste of time if you really know your algebra and trig.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook