Older student needs advice

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In summary, the individual is seeking advice on how to prepare for a re-entry into the mathematical world after a long break. They are planning to take Calculus I, II, and III and three semesters of physics to obtain a dual major in Electronics & Mechanical Engineering Technology. Some suggestions include reading a textbook and doing exercises, focusing on topics such as graphing functions, trigonometry, and algebra, and reviewing material in areas such as matrices and statistics. The individual also mentions using books specifically geared towards those who have been away from math for a while and suggests actively participating in lectures and finding a study partner.
  • #1


I need some advice. I am 48 and am presently pursuing the degree I should have had back in 1977 or so. I will be taking Calculus I next semester and then II and III and differentials. Along with this I'll have 3 semesters of physics with the end result being a dual major in Electronics & Mechanical Engineering Technology. The advice I seek concerns this- What is the best way to prepare for a re-entry into the mathematical world? I'll have 5 weeks over Christmas to prepare and I want to make the best possible use of my time. Any ideas would be a big help.
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  • #2
Read a textbook, and do the exercises.

- Warren
  • #3
Just get a good pre-calculus book and work through as many practice problems as you can with it, I would try to concentrate mainly on stuff that you will see again in calculus, so there are some chapters which are much more important than others. You should focus on things that involve graphing functions, using f(x) g(x) f(g(x)) etc.. as well as trigonometry. I tend to find that in calculus classes the hardest part is not the calculus, its the algebra that is required to complete the problem after the calculus is done. So you should go over all your algebraic functions, simplifying and toying with equations to get the required result.

Also there are some things that you can probably mostly ignore that are in pre-calc books but will not show up in calc, (at least I'm looking through my book here that covers calc 1 and 2, and I don't see any of them in here.)

Matrices, most statistics, etc. and for instance, equations involving parabalas and hyperboles will not arrive until late in calc II most likely, so you'll have some time before you have to encounter those.

Hope this helps.
  • #4
Ther's a line of books for sale in most big book stores called "forgotten trigonetry", "forgotten calculus", and so on. They are geared to people who once had these courses but have been away like you for many years. They are at least worth looking at.
  • #5
You didn't say what you've been doing or what your math strengths & weaknesses are, so it's hard to tell you what to review. But based on my experience in Calc I & II last year, I think these are the things you should bring to the table:

1. Algebra - you must be proficient at manipulating and solving equations, factoring, rearranging terms, etc. Practice solving quadratic equations by factoring as well as by use of the quadratic formula. Be comfortable with handling equations that are entirely symbolic (i.e. ax2 + bx + c = d), keeping in mind which letters represent constants & which represent variables.

2. Trigonometry - be familiar with all of the trig functions and the inverse trig functions and be able to solve equations involving combinations of them. Get familiar with the common trig identities and try to memorize as many of them as possible. Also, know how to use trig functions to solve for lengths, and know how to find areas and volumes of various geometric shapes and solids.

3. Logarithms - understand what they are, how to manipulate them & how to solve equations involving them.

Good luck!
  • #6
I am 39, and a divorced father of 3. I received my Bachelors in Mechanical Engineerng from UMBC ~1 year ago. I found the mathematics courses FUN challenging, and worthy of my time. The last course in Mathematics I took was as an elective and was in Mathematical Modeling.
The thing that is most important is to always listen to the professors lectures, take lecture notes carefully, and find a classmate to compare those notes with.

I also found it helpful to use daily life examples as application problems.
Make sure you FULLY UNDERSTAND all new material before the next class, do whatever it takes to get to the 100% understanding level before the next class.

1. How can I balance my studies with other responsibilities as an older student?

As an older student, it is important to prioritize your responsibilities and create a schedule that works for you. Make use of time management techniques such as creating a to-do list and setting aside specific blocks of time for studying. You may also want to consider reducing your workload by taking fewer courses per semester or seeking support from family and friends.

2. Will my age affect my ability to learn and retain information?

Age does not necessarily affect one's ability to learn and retain information. In fact, research has shown that older students may have an advantage in certain areas such as critical thinking and problem solving. However, it is important to stay mentally and physically healthy by getting enough rest, exercising, and maintaining a balanced diet to support your learning.

3. How can I connect with younger classmates and feel more included?

It may feel daunting to connect with younger classmates, but remember that you all share a common goal of learning and succeeding in your studies. Take the initiative to introduce yourself and participate in group activities or study groups. Also, try to find common interests and be open to learning from others' perspectives.

4. Is it too late for me to switch careers and pursue a new degree as an older student?

It is never too late to switch careers and pursue a new degree as an older student. Many universities offer flexible programs, such as online or part-time courses, to accommodate individuals with different schedules and backgrounds. Additionally, your previous work experience and life skills can be valuable assets in your new career path.

5. How can I overcome imposter syndrome as an older student in a classroom full of younger students?

Imposter syndrome is a common feeling, but it is important to remember that you were accepted into your program for a reason. Focus on your strengths and the unique perspective you bring to the classroom as an older student. Seek support from peers, professors, or a counselor if needed. Also, try to shift your mindset and embrace the opportunity to learn from your younger classmates rather than feeling intimidated by them.

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