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Learning Calculus from text books

  1. Jan 31, 2012 #1
    Hey there people, I've got a fascination with the sciences, especially Physics. In a year or two I'll have the time to possibly study it at Uni. Most likely entering as a mature student.

    Anyways, I plan on using this time up until then on getting my Maths up to scratch.

    The last time i studied Math's was at the age of 16, I'm now 22 and dare say I've forgotten everything. In school I was'nt exactly the model student either, i only got a C.

    So, could I possibly get a few suggestions on what books to purchase? I dont want to just buy a Calculus book and struggle as if been thrown in the deep end, Is there a book out there with a section dedicated to getting other areas of Math's up to scratch to be ready to study Calculus?

    Thank you for your time in reading this,

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2012 #2
    Is there a community college or extension division of a university nearby? People with exceptional focus and self-organization skills can perhaps in theory review pre-calc and learn calculus on your own.

    But MOST people, and to be honest I mean basically EVERYONE, is far better taking classes. You have a structure, you have peers to work with, you have a teacher who can explain things that aren't in the book.

    If you just read a book on logarithms you'd have to be a genius to figure out what they're taking about. If you have a teacher to explain how a logarithm is just a gadget for converting multiplication problems into addition problems, maybe that would be the one thing you needed to hear to make the subject snap into clarity for you.

    Teachers are great for when you have to convert the dry words and formulas of the text, into actual meaning that literally transforms your mind. One moment you don't see it, the next moment you do. Good teachers facilitate that.

    It would be a really long row to hoe to learn pre-calc and calc by yourself.

    Find a good teacher. In fact you could just go on Craigslist and hire a tutor. I think that's a good idea. You could try a few till you find one who clicks with you. One good teacher is worth years of reading textbooks.
  4. Jan 31, 2012 #3
    I agree with everything SteveL said above me, however I feel as if my personal experiences might come in handy here.
    I have successfully taught myself a calculus class and skipped a semester because of it, and while I feel as if the experience was incredibly beneficial for me, I realize I am an exception. I have the unique (skill?) of very efficiently being able to teach myself material, and in fact prefer it. If you are one of those people like me who both enjoy teaching themselves and feel capable doing it then I would recommend going to a nearby college library and renting a calculus/pre-calc textbook that you seem to like and starting from there. If you don't feel like you enjoy teaching yourself material, I would suggest doing as SteveL said.

    P.S. Regardless of what you choose, KhanAcademy is a fantastic free online video database that is incredibly helpful when you need extra clarification on a math/science topic, and even can teach you it.
  5. Jan 31, 2012 #4
    I have suggested this many times before. First get "basic mathematics" by Lang. The book contains everything you need to know to do good in calculus. Work through the book first and if you understand most of it, then you can begin with calculus.
  6. Feb 1, 2012 #5
    The thing is at the moment I don't have time to take evening classes, or the money to be honest. Working from a text book would be ideal. However if most people struggle to do this, even if being very bright, then i feel i would most likely as well.

    First I'll crack on with basic mathematics by lang then, and give you a update on how things go.

    Thank you all for the information and advice, its much appriciated!
  7. Feb 1, 2012 #6
    khanacademy is pretty good for getting you use to the basics

    then I'd reccomend one of the two books;
    Basic Training in Mathematics: A Fitness Program for Science Students - R. Shankar

    Or, if you're feeling a little more confident
    Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences - Mary L. Boas

    Once you've done with them (or even at the same time since the linear algebra sections in those books aren't that great) you should follow along with the MIT Open Courseware lectures on Linear Algebra by Gilbert Strang
    Along with the textbook
    Introduction to Linear Algebra - Gilbert Strang

    PatricJMT also has some good tutorial videos on maths that are slightly beyond what khanacademy does if you'd like to suppliment the textbooks.

    And remember, if you ever get stuck you can always post here and ask for help!
  8. Feb 1, 2012 #7
    Thanks again! Ill copy and save the replys for future reference. I'll start with the basic Maths and then get the other books and see how I get on, if i feel its too much I'll be sure to post here to see if there are further steps i can take :)

    Thanks again guys!

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