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Learning calc on ones own

  1. Dec 6, 2007 #1
    Hey all,

    I once, like 3 years ago, was an ardent science major mastering calc, calc ii and bound to complete my chem degree and go on to get my MD. some things changed and i ended up a english student currently applying to law schools.

    Having completed my law apps and a bit tired of reading, writing and talking for a living, i teach test prep for a test prep company i want to try a new intellectual pursuit. I want to do what i failed to do in school: I actually want to learn calc again.

    Now i remember somethings, i can still take the derivative of x^2, but at about integration my memory becomes incredibly hazy. Basically, i want to work my way through a text book and master a course curriculum up to calc 3. That was the last calc class we had where i went to school, nyu, and i have heard of calc 4. but let's start small. Can anyone recommend the steps i should take?

    I still have my old calc text book. It seems standard for calc i and ii classes. It has the integration symbol on the cover and is brown, and i have the student solutions manual. Is there anything else i need? Where do i move from there? I have a lot of free time on my hands, i've saved up some money and am actively working less so i have the time. Any suggestions or guidance?


  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 7, 2007 #2
    It really really helps to have someone explain it to you. Books really won't cut it, as it is very difficult to explain concepts and all that.

    Start from pre-calculus again, since you probably forgot most of it (since you're applying for Law, I can pretty much say you won't remember much :)).
    then differentiation and integration.
  4. Dec 7, 2007 #3
    I believe dedicated self-study can be an excellent way to learn a subject. I think the text you are talking about is stewart, if it is you are correct it is the standard calc1&2 text. You could most definitely learn the material (and more) if you go through the chapters carefully and thoroughly.

    The steps are simple: read the chapter, do a good % of the problem set that follows it. You shouldn't quit on the harder problems, they are meant to take more time and these are the kind that REALLY get you thinking about the subject. Also working at a difficult problem allows you to internalize the concepts. When you feel you've mastered a the section, move on. Periodically test your knowledge of the material - this can be done a number of ways, i like to take exams that I time and grade myself.

    I disagree that books don't cut it. It's definitely harder to learn new material from a text vs classroom but it's far from impossible. I'm sure there are even cases where a carefully reading a good textbook is more beneficial than attending a class.

    The thing about teaching yourself through a textbook is that you need to be patient. Learning new mathematics on your own is generally difficult and it won't be a walk in the park so be prepared to struggle. It's a rewarding experience though.
  5. Dec 7, 2007 #4

    Doc Al

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    Staff: Mentor

    I think calculus is one of the most self-teachable subjects around.
  6. Dec 7, 2007 #5


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    Gold Member

    You can very well study Calculus 1,2,& 3 on your own. Your old book is probably just fine. Just study the sections in order, do the examples, check your work comparing to the book, study the material in the sections, do the exercises, check your work and answers... keep going until you finish the equivalent of the third semester material. In case you are weak in Algebra, restudy Intermediate Algebra; if weak in Trigonometry, restudy just what you need from it, maybe also use trig book for reference as needed. One thing: don't get too burned-out about epsilon-delta proofs, but give an attempt to study and understand, maybe 3 weeks worth and then keep moving to the next topic or section.
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