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Failing at Calculus.

  1. Nov 2, 2011 #1

    Well I just had my second exam today from my calculus I class. I really try hard (even too hard) to get good grades and all, and I try not to talk bad about my teacher; but, she is really bad. I just don't get he exams. The exams almost horrible. I still have a change to replace one exam with the grade from the final. I don't yet know what I got for todays exam, bit, I don't think it will be pretty. So, basically I see my grade going down fast. And advice, what should I do? Should I change my mindset, find a tutor, etc? One thing I found out while looking around for some advice is to never complain about anything. Well, I'm trying not to.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2011 #2
    What are you doing to prepare daily for the class and periodically for the exams/quizes?
  4. Nov 2, 2011 #3
    The usual, going through material and doing homework. Checking youtube, how other teachers present the material, looking at how they approach a problem.

    I should add that we are going through the coursework pretty fast. Each class is 3 hours long. And the class started late + something happened to the instructor and that further delayed our classes.

    Is there some mindset that is better than an all or nothing approach, as in A or nothing?
  5. Nov 2, 2011 #4
    Learn how to derive the formulas you're using from scratch. Then prove that they work and try to find situations in which they fail, or apply them in ways that model real situations. Assist your studies with a graphing calculator so that you can see visually what's going on.

    Your book probably does that for you, but try to do it without your book. After you derive things for yourself, you'll find that working problems is kind of useless, and you'll remember the formulas/procedures much better since you justified them to yourself.
  6. Nov 2, 2011 #5
    For a 3hr math class, I presume that it only meets twice a week and you're on quarters? (or some other unique schedule)

    If that is the case I highly suggest adjusting your efforts - spread out your load and do more of it. Math, IMO, is all about repetition and rigor. I even found that doing homework on a Friday night can be forgotten by Monday morning - I had to adjust and make time to do homework on Sunday to get through some math and physics classes just so I wouldn't atrophy concepts over a few days (it also refreshed ideas for class on Monday). Also, if your struggling to understand your instructor - I highly suggest working through the example problems in your book on your own. In any given lesson there are 2-3 concepts (usually tied to a theorem being applied) and a few situations for each concept. The examples give a shell of how to accomplish the problems in your homework with some of the explaination. Personally, I used to overlook them - but they have become invaluble for me over time.

    My routine for calculus was (for a M-Th/F class): Do homework from the previous class' lesson and read through the next lesson(s) each night. It may sound like procrastination - but I wouldn't do anything on the weekend until Sunday. I found doing it too early made me loose it (and thus fail monday morning quizes!). If your class only meets two days a week (or 1?) then I highly suggest doing home work more than just near the class days. Probably doing homework for math 5-6 days a week is a good idea. You need to immerse yourself in it to be successful. I know there's the rule that every freshman gets: 'spend 2 hours out of class for every 1 hour in' - for most math classes it's more like 3-4hrs out of class for every 1 hour in (and some other classes it's less).
    To prepare for exams I would first create a 'cheat sheet' by basically writing down every theorem and short-cut formula in the book (the 'cheat sheet' was never used on exams, but it's for my own good). Rewriting these equations helped to refamiliarize myself with them as it may have been a few weeks since i've encountered a particular concept. I would then set a rule and do problems out of the book. For midterms I would do problems ending in 3 and 7, for finals I'd go through everything and do problems ending in 5 (I generally skip some of the exploration problems as I probably already had dealt with the later concept anyhow). If, when doing my review problems, I came across an issue I would make sure to note it on my 'cheat sheet'. Then, the day of the exam I could use that cheat sheet to get in the mindset for the exam.

    Another option is definately a tutor. I work in my college's tutoring center and find that even if a tutor can't help you realize the problem, sometimes other students whom are in similar struggling situations can. Just don't get caught in a trap of being with a 'really smart' student and essentially parroting them - make sure you can actually apply the concepts just as well.

    Finally, and this will take some self-realization: how are your math skills overall? Can you confidently solve any 1 and 2 variable equation? Can you identify graph shapes immediately? Do you know your single-digit squares and cubes? Can you factor quickly? Are you reliant on a calculator? If you're having problems with any of the techniques presented in a previous class - the concepts in calculus can be mountainous. I'd venture to say that 2/3 of the students I tutor in Calculus and College Trig (Pre-calc) have significant issues with what is considered basic algebra - much of my tutoring time is refreshing on solving equations and graphs. The remaining 1/3 with 'good algebra skills' just need an 'aha!' moment and a different perspective to get the new concept.
  7. Nov 2, 2011 #6
    So, I've already come to terms that I will probably be repeating this class. Thanks for the advice, mege and Harrisonized.
  8. Nov 2, 2011 #7
    How do you know the exams are horrible? Can you post up one of the hard questions?

    Maybe the problem isn't the exam, maybe your having trouble self-teaching yourself? Personally I don't rely on my professor one single bit. I teach myself all the material before the class (or after) and do lots of practice problems. Going to class strengthens my knowledge or introduces a concept that I've missed, along with paying attention to what the professor stresses in the lectures (chances are if he/she stresses it then it will be on the exam!).
  9. Nov 2, 2011 #8


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    try elliot gootman's little paperback book: calculus. it was written exactly for people in your situation, students are taking calculus and struggling with it.
  10. Nov 2, 2011 #9
  11. Nov 2, 2011 #10
    No, I study well or I tend to believe so. The material is presented chaotically. And, I'm not the only one going through this in the class. The worst thing that I notice is when the teacher gets a question, s/he flips the tables and says something of the sort, "Oh they didn't teach you this in algebra class"? It's really bad. S/he wont come of his/her high chair.

    Thanks for the books. I think I'll get that one mathwonk! Thanks.
  12. Nov 2, 2011 #11
    If the teacher and the exams are as bad as you say, then everyone else in the class must be doing as poorly as you.
  13. Nov 2, 2011 #12
    And, that is what I suspect the case to be. But, I'd rather withhold from asserting that as a matter of fact. Its just that I haven't had things go so poorly. I have prepared for this course before it started. On ratemyprofessor the lecturer has bad rating for any calc class. But, I only looked there after the class started.

    I haven't taken private tutor classes regarding this class so, I can't speak for students that have.
  14. Nov 2, 2011 #13
    There's always times in my Calculus 1 class where I am completely lost, and just basically copying down what the professor writes, even though I don't understand any of it. The thing that helps me is doing extra homework, my class has to hw online, and submit it with a paper copy. So what I do is, I do the hw in the book and the online and turn that in for the stuff I have trouble on...and I end up really getting it as I do more hw problems. Sometimes I don't understand how my professor does the examples, so when I get home, I just watch some vids of the topic we're covering (e.g. chain rule) on khan academy or patrickjmt. I was lost when we started the chain rule, now I love it lol. Sometimes you gotta put 4-5 hours..in the hw. Yeah it gets tough, but I know you can get through it. You gotta ask urself how am i utilizing the time I have, if I don't understand it what other things can i do to understand it?

    in essence keep doing the hw, and follow the examples in ur text book, eventually it just clicks and you realize...ohhhh..that's what's going on or that's what im doing.

    good luck man
  15. Nov 3, 2011 #14
    Have you tried attending another professors' lectures or looking at online sources such as this:


    that are free?
  16. Nov 6, 2011 #15
    To anyone who may have been or is in a similar situation, I found the MIT videos on Single Var. Calculus extremely helpful. Other than the psychological comfort of having a math guru presenting the information; everything presented is cohesive and coherent. The ideas flow smoothly, and the transitions aren't abrupt. Found the videos indispensable in solidifying my understanding of calc.

    Found http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7K1sB05pE0A&feature=list_related&playnext=1&list=SP590CCC2BC5AF3BC1".
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  17. Nov 6, 2011 #16
    And the guy has some time to go through proofs! Wa-wa-woo-wah.
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