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How should I select a Calculus class?

  1. Mar 23, 2015 #1
    Well, I'm a Computer Science major, and I'm trying to figure out where in my area I should take Calculus over the Summer. Here are my issues.

    I've been taking most of my Classes at Richland College. However, they have policies I don't care for regarding Precalculus and higher classes. They don't allow calculators on exams, and they only give you an hour to take the exams. So the classes are pretty tough. I was so intimidated that I opted to go to another DCCCD school called Brookhaven and take Precalculus with a Math teacher I knew from High School. At that school, they allow you to take the test in the Testing Center. You can use a TI-84 and stay in there until they close if you want. But, while the testing conditions are better, I'm having issues because he doesn't assign any homework or give quizzes, and self-study with no external rewards doesn't work so well for me.

    So, I've been considering taking my Calculus classes at University of Texas at Dallas, because they offer 11-week Summer classes. They're a lot more expensive, but I'm hoping that the classes will be better. Also, they offer a two semester Calculus sequence that consists of MATH 2417 and MATH 2419.

    Another idea I had was going to Collin College in Plano. They offer 10-week courses, and also have the accelerated MATH 2417 and 2419. I would be paying more in tuition than at Richland (but less than UTD), and it might be worth it if their Math program is better.

    So, does anyone have experience with the Calculus classes in and around Dallas? Or at least have general advice about choosing a good school or teacher?

    The thing to note about my learning style is that I benefit a lot from drawing or looking at graphs, I get stressed by strict time limits during exams, but I like the pressure of having homework due or a possible pop quiz to keep me motivated. If possible, I also like having teachers that are willing to provide feedback on what I'm doing wrong before a test comes up, rather than just making me take it and find out the hard way that I've been solving the problems incorrectly somehow even though I'm getting the right answer (for instance, not showing the step of simplifying fractions).
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2015 #2


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    Honestly it sounds like you're being exceptionally picky about your courses.

    Time limits on an exam? How dare they!

    Everyone gets stressed during exams and I understand that you want to take a course that fits well with your learning style. But no course is going to be perfect. No professor is going to be perfect. And amidst the imperfect options you are going to be evaluated against your peers under identical conditions.

    You may have heard somewhere that in university you "learn how to learn." Part of that is figuring out how to adapt to different teaching styles and figuring out means for feedback on your own.

    I would keep an ear out for particularly brutal courses or instructors. But beyond that, introductory calculus is common enough that there are a lot of resources available to help you learn.
  4. Mar 23, 2015 #3
    All I'm really hearing you say is that most professors don't teach well, and I've just got to suck it up and figure things out on my own because life isn't fair. Is that about right?

    That really wasn't the answer I wanted, but I'm not surprised. I just really didn't want to be stuck in that situation for a difficult class that's important to my future.

    Oh, well... I guess I'll just have to try and settle for whatever I can glean from a textbook, or hire a tutor. :(

    I'm normally not that picky about my classes, but I have very little natural talent in Math and ideal conditions are more important to my success in that subject than any other. Asking me to adapt to different teaching styles for a class that already asks so much of me seems excessive, but... I guess that's how it goes.
  5. Mar 23, 2015 #4


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    Calculus course in the summer? Not good. Use the summer to either review Pre-Calculus, or if already done, study Calculus 1 on your own, and do whatever homework you can do chapter section by chapter section on your own. If you do not study regular and do the exercises (even if you must pick them all yourself), then you do not learn either. A tutor might be helpful, but you must do your own learning. You could improve your chances to handle Calculus 1 if you study it full-speed BEFORE officially enrolling and studying it.
  6. Mar 23, 2015 #5
    Well, actually that's one reason I was really interested in UTD. They have three semesters per year rather than just two. In other words, their Summer semester is the same length as their Spring and Fall semesters.

    Calculus here in Texas is divided into three classes, and it will take me a year and a half to get through it in Community College, if I throw out the possibility of Summer classes all together.

    I know that a 6-week summer session would probably kill me, but a 10 or 11 week session where I take Calculus I (and no other classes) might work out.

    The thing is, I've already been in Community College for a year and a half taking a full load, and if I dismiss the idea of Summer classes, I'll end up spending four years to earn a two-year degree. I'm trying to finish in three, because it's going to cause issues for my ability to transfer and receive financial aid if I take longer than three years to get my Associate's Degree.

    The main thing that delayed me so long was having to take College Algebra, Trigonometry, and Precalculus one right after another. Now, on top of a three-semester Calculus sequence, I have to take two Physics classes and a Discrete Math class to finish my AS degree. I wasn't able to start on any of those because they all had Calculus as a Prerequisite, and I couldn't start on Calculus because it required the other three, etc.

    Death by Math prerequisites is pretty much killing my chances of getting the degree I want in any reasonable timeframe, otherwise I wouldn't be so desperate.
  7. Mar 23, 2015 #6
    I go to school in Louisiana and we also have the calculus sequence in three parts. Doing Calculus 1 by itself in the summer is a great idea, but if you are struggling with pre-calculus, it will be difficult. About using a calculator, most calculus classes won't have problems that really require any computation, so having one isn't going to help you much. I don't know much about the Dallas Area, but Calc 1 is really going to be the same everywhere. They will discuss limits, the formal definition of a derivative, derivatives and their applications (this includes graphing them), approximation, and finally the integral and its applications. I hope this was helpful to you. I took calc 1 for the first time after not having any math other than trig in a year and a half and I made a solid C because I had to miss a lot of class due to my job, but when I retook the course over the next summer, I made a 95 A. I am sure you can do it if you just talk to your professor when you are stumped and work problems.
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