1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Is it possible to learn a great amount of Calc Yourself?

  1. Jan 8, 2016 #1
    From a basic level of Algebra. Yes, I understand that Calculus is vast but with immense study time per day, good resources, could one build the knowledge & understanding themselves to become an expert?

    I know you couldn't put an accurate time on how long this would take but at least give me your own opinion on the duration?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 8, 2016 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Oh for sure!

    Calculus has the joy of being everywhere online and in textbooks. Considering every engineer/scientist in the world needs to understand it, it is a topic that is very much analyzed. Meaning there are plentiful resources available.

    For me, I would start with Khan Academy's videos and skills. They offer a great way to get the basics down. From there, you can supplement them with more problems and use Paul's Online Notes to help guide you further. If you really want to engage yourself with calculus, now you take out a good textbook and read/work out the problems in there.

    In terms of time? It really depends on the user. Some people learn math surprisingly fast, while others don't. Calculus is a pretty big topic if you plan on learning calc 1, 2, 3 (differential calculus, integration, multivariable). I would think around a year would be a good 'average' time frame. However, it will take longer than a year to 'truly' master it.

    Paul's : http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/Classes/CalcI/CalcI.aspx
    Khan AcademY: https://www.khanacademy.org/mission/differential-calculus
  4. Jan 8, 2016 #3


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    A typical university calculus sequence in the US runs for three semesters, i.e. one year if taken one after the other including during the normal summer vacation. This assumes a good working knowledge beforehand of algebra and trigonometry. If this the only thing you're doing, you can probably do it in less time, but I wouldn't want to try to compress it too much. In my experience, it takes a certain amount of resting time for my brain to digest new ideas, and I need time to practice new techniques, again with rest periods.

    To make an analogy, when training to run a marathon, or bicycle a "century" (in miles), one doesn't train continuously on a daily basis. Instead one takes regular "rest days" to allow one's body to recover from the efforts of the preceding days and build new muscle fibers. I think a similar principle applies in making new "connections" in one's brain.
  5. Jan 8, 2016 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Checkout the collection of videos on MathIsPower4U.com or Khan's Academy and see how many videos there are in the calculus section.

    Each video is about 10 mins long and I figure you'd need to spend at least an additional 20 minutes to absorb it and maybe another 30 minutes doing problems related to the video.

    Assuming 100 video topics then I'd say 100 hours of study would be needed to master the concepts, mechanics and be comfortable with using it.

    What usually happens is that students learning Calculus thru self-study focus on the concepts and the mechanics of differentiating, integratin and solving applied problems and then move on from there with a weak understanding of limit theory and other deeper concepts. This was the road I took when I first self-studied it.
  6. Jan 8, 2016 #5


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    I suggest you consider "Calculus for the Life Sciences" or a Business Calculus type primer. These books are light on the Trig functions and will concentrate on algebra based Calculus. You will able to grasp and understand the basics of Calculus. Other more advanced topics are likely to be beyond your current abilities until you learn Trig. Most schools encourage you to take Trig (pre-calc) before you enroll in Calculus. However, if you want a precursor in Calculus, the above mentioned type of Texts is probably your best option.
  7. Jan 8, 2016 #6
    Thank you all for your informative input.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Discussions: Is it possible to learn a great amount of Calc Yourself?