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I'm nothing without my calculator...

  1. Sep 27, 2016 #1
    So i graduated with good gpa in a civil engineering program in a school in Québec. Problem is, at that said school, programmable calculators were allowed and we abused it. Every single integrals or derivatives or complex number manipulation was solved by it and now i transfered to another graduate school in a engineering physics master program (course based) and they dont allow any form of programmable calculators. I'm currently studying lagragians and hamiltonians in before quantum mechanics and quantum optics for microfabrication (photoelectrochemical cells and stuff). But i simply cannot do anything without my calculator.

    Simply put, is it possible to rapidly grasp the maths for those topics or am i doomed to an undergraduate career in civil engineering... I been practicing for about 2-3 additional hours a day for 3 weeks now and i'm not even near where i want to be with hand derivatives and integrals.

    Anyone here who wasn't good at manually solving problems and picked it up for grad schools?

    Thanks alot.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 27, 2016 #2

    Charles Link

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    Sounds like the school just isn't a good fit. As an undergraduate, I remember having a couple of professors who were extremely authoritarian. Many years later, I look back and conclude these professors (who are likely now very old) took themselves a little too seriously. It is somewhat difficult to change schools=much time and effort are spent applying and getting admitted to a program as well as getting the funding, but this one sounds like a poor fit for you. It is likely they are very set in their ways and aren't going to try to make their program help meet your needs. ..editing...One thing you should look for in both academia and engineering employment is a place that can help make it an adventure for you.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2016
  4. Sep 29, 2016 #3


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    I was in a similar situation. However I was lucky enough to have my graduate professors recognize that the goals of the exams is to test knowledge and application of engineering principals, not the subtleties of trig substitution. On exams the actual calculus wasn't that difficult, but the application was.

    What degree of difficulty are the problems? Are you saying you can find the derivative of 2X+7^X? or are you concerned that you can find the integral of X^(e^(sinx)+7log(x)). If you can't do the first one by hand in a short amount of time you should work on your calc skills. If you can find the second one by hand in a short amount of time good for you, but it belongs on a calc exam, not a strength of materials exam.

    note: both the problems and the class are made up for illustration :)

    I recommend talking to your professor. In the real world people use computers. Depending on the difficulty of what you are being asked to do there may be exceptions. Have you had an exam yet?
  5. Sep 30, 2016 #4


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    If you can't differentiate by hand, that's a serious problem. There's nothing difficult about differentiation. Integration is harder, but at this point, you should be able to do any of the integrals in an intro calculus book by hand. That's just basic knowledge you should have under your belt. Since you presumably learned this stuff before, it probably won't take you too long to relearn it.

    Of course, there's a difference between knowing how to solve a problem, and being able to solve it quickly and efficiently. You typically develop the skills to do mathematical calculations efficiently with practice. Your unfortunate reliance on a calculator to bypass all that practice has left you at a disadvantage; you just have to put in the time to catch up to where you should have been.
  6. Oct 1, 2016 #5
    Thanks for the answers guys i really appreciate it. Yeah i can do the basic expressions but i struggle when it get deeper like d(e^sin(3x)+13x^3)/cosh(4x))dx . Anyway, i dropped a class to have a smooth session so i can get into the problems of my next semester quantum mechanics class. (They use the Griffiths book which is pretty well detailed so im just gonna work out the problems and practice the required maths). And if i still can't cope with it then after a whole semester of study i think i'm just gonna call it and find a job in civil engineering...

    Thanks again.
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