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I've finally hit a wall with math

  1. Oct 28, 2012 #1
    Hi folks, I'm just going to cut to the chase. I'm not sure I can survive my Chemistry major, as I am being tormented by my performance in math. I need to take 5 math courses (Calc I, II, II, LA I, and ODE I) of those I've completed two Calc I (84%) and LA I (51%) and am now taking Calc II and I'm not doing very well in it (I got a 30% on the first midterm...) and have now taken desperate measures to get a tutor so I can pass this course. However the damage I think has been done with these courses and I'm seriously questioning my ability to get through my Chemistry degree even though I'm getting A's in both my Chemistry and Physics (Electricity and Magnetism) course. Do complicate measures further when I went to my academic advising center they suggested I may have developed a math test anxiety which is killing me on all my tests. What do I do!?!?

    Edit: I should mention, that I am very discouraged with my math abilities right now. I DO WANT TO LEARN IT. It's just that I'm not sure how these failures will reflect on me when it comes to future job prospects and such. With that LA course I got a 12% on the first midterm and worked my butt off to pass. I'm just wondering if I should retake these courses so I know I can do well to build confidence before I continue on with Chemistry. Thanks.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2012 #2
    If you're doing well in physics but not calc II, and you did well in calc I, you shouldn't consider this an ability thing. But without seeing what went wrong on your test(s), it's hard to really suggest anything... Were you missing the big picture, or just making small mistakes that you groan over later, like missing negatives or blanking on formulas?

    If your problem is test anxiety rather than ability, I like this list: http://www-ugs.csusb.edu/sail/study_skills/overcomingtestanxiety.pdf

    I like it because it goes beyond the standard "get plenty of sleep, eat a good breakfast, relax", because those never help. I do that anyway! I think when it comes to test anxiety, the most important thing is to take your time and remember to look at the minute details. Also, one of the things on the list is to remember that bad scores or overall grades do NOT make you a failure. You can still get a chemistry degree and become successful in your field if you have to re-take a class or two. It takes some people longer than others to really get things, especially in courses as hard as calc II.

    As for whether you should re-take courses even though you've passed... that's really up to you. Some might find it enough to do extensive reviews over the summers instead, but if you have the money and are willing to possibly extend your degree by a semester or so, then go for it. But I think for certain disciplines there are aspects of things like LA and calc that matter more than in others, so it might be enough to study on your own if you're able to pass your classes. If you're planning on going to grad school, then I would say ask your advisor how your grades will affect the admissions process down the line.
  4. Oct 28, 2012 #3


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    Hey MarcZZ and welcome to the forums.

    My suggestion is to use your resources: this forum is but one resource that you can use where you have access to quite a number of people who have a lot of experience and also a way to explain something from a point of view that can make things make sense.

    If you are not acqainted with mathematics or see the symbols instead of the ideas, then consider posing a question somewhere and if its well posed and thought out and you have shown effort in its construction, then someone (usually many) are bound to answer it.
  5. Oct 29, 2012 #4
    Sadly, most people have a limit in grasping higher mathematics, yours may be calculus.
  6. Oct 29, 2012 #5


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    We all have our differences, but one thing about a good teacher is that they can make something like ridiculously easy when compared to another teacher who can make something ridiculously hard.

    Most people look at math and see symbols, rules and formulas, instead of ideas that can be related to things that are intuitive to them.

    Good teachers extract the ideas and bad teachers emphasize the cryptic symbols without any intuition.
  7. Oct 29, 2012 #6


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    Let's not make hasty conclusions. I earnestly believe anyone can learn the material in Calc II to at least the level to pass the course. From what I understand, the day to day life of Chemist after their undergrad isn't so mathematically intense. Keep in mind I have limited relations with chemist, but there is one I knew quite well who is quite successful working for some oil company, and he probably can't tell you anything about calculus. In fact, I'm fairly certain he barely passed it.

    You may have formed test anxiety over Mathematics due to the level of stress. I offer no solution, but just simple encouragement that I do believe with enough work and help you can overcome your challenge and go on with your education. Calculus II, for a lot of students, seems to be a stumbling block, but even so, a lot of students end up passing it.
  8. Oct 29, 2012 #7
    Calc 2 will seriously come up again. The most important math classes for chemists is going to be calc 1-3 and linear algebra and ODE... well that's all your math requirements actually. But calc 2 is absolutely essential. It comes up in every single important chemistry class: quantum chemistry, stat mech, chemical kinetics, thermo, quantitative analysis, molecular spectroscopy, etc. You also MUST know single variable integration like the back of your hand to tackle calc 3 and ODEs.

    Here's the thing: integration is first off extremely nontrivial mathematically. That said, there's methods to the madness.

    First is to realize that problems in Calc 2 come in only 5 basic forms:

    1. U substitution
    2. Integration by Parts
    3. Partial Fractions
    4. Completing the Square
    5. Trig Substitution

    The most important skill is to recognize which method will solve what type of integral, then apply that method.
  9. Oct 29, 2012 #8
    I'm at the point where I can't understand anything, and if I waste my time on this course I feel like I'm going to hurt my Physics and Chemistry marks, should I just let this one go, and retry it later, and do a strategic fail so I know what material I'm facing next time around? Thanks.
  10. Oct 29, 2012 #9
    Everyone hits a mathematical wall eventually the trick is whether or not you can power through it and finish anyways. Anyone can, just takes patience, practice, and devotion. I would say even if you end up failing stick out the class your bound to learn something, but still try and do the work.
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012
  11. Oct 29, 2012 #10


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    Keep giving it your best: worst case scenario is you have to retake the course, which is not the end of the world. Don't overreact and drop your entire degree plan because you're struggling in a course.

    I will probably be retaking abstract algebra next semester. It is not ideal, but a lot of it just isn't sinking in like I want it to. This is not an indication that I need to drop my major, I just need more time. I believe the same is true for you. Stick with it and it'll eventually "click."
  12. Oct 29, 2012 #11
    Ok I'll stick through the course and do what I can. However, I'm going to turn all my focus to Physics and Chemistry, as I think this one is kind of a lost cause by this point.
  13. Oct 29, 2012 #12
    When does higher mathematics begin?
  14. Oct 29, 2012 #13


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    Usually when one takes a course in which the primary focus is proving theorems.
  15. Oct 29, 2012 #14


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    It's the first class where you work *really really* hard yet still don't get an A.
  16. Oct 29, 2012 #15
    Wherever you happen to be, it is usually said to be 3 steps higher.
  17. Oct 29, 2012 #16
    I am having this same problem. I breezed through calc 1-3, diff eq, and linear algebra. Now I am in Complex Variables and I am DYING. I go into my professors office for help every time she has office hours, and I still am barely passing the class. I am generally an A student, but I only am pulling off a C in her class AFTER a 20% curve. As a matter of fact, only one person has an A in there affter the curve. I hope this is not indicative of my ability in maths as a whole.
  18. Oct 30, 2012 #17
    If you are going to office hours and studying before exams then it probably is an indication that you are reaching your mathematical limit.
  19. Oct 30, 2012 #18
    There are always trades and traineeships. Get out of university while you're young. It can be a life ruiner.
  20. Oct 30, 2012 #19


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    I find the above responsive a bit extreme. The guy is having problem in math and doing well in his other classes, so therefore he should quit and and do something else entirely? Seriously?

    I think a good number of people struggle in one area in college. It happens. You might fail. That happens too! But guess what, you figure out why and overcome it. I failed Physics I when I was 18 and just out of high school. I dropped out of college, went to the military, got out and went back to college and passed it was a 98. Not only passed that course, but every other physics course I encountered afterward.

    While you can argue I matured a bit and learn to study. The thing is that when I was failing Physics I with a 40, I went to the professor daily with help, I went to nearly every study group. I just could not pass a test for the life of me. During my time in the military, I spent a lot of time talking to a lot of different people, but one person who helped me the most was an Officer with a math degree, and he taught me a new way to study that I just wasn't aware of when I was an 18 year old kid. So, what does this mean? You can overcome this. Don't let the negativity from others keep you from trying to obtain your goals.
  21. Oct 30, 2012 #20
    Nah I know everything about life.
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