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Older student needs advice

  1. Nov 1, 2003 #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.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 1, 2003 #2


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    Read a textbook, and do the exercises.

    - Warren
  4. Nov 1, 2003 #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.
  5. Nov 2, 2003 #4


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    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.
  6. Nov 3, 2003 #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!
  7. Jun 15, 2009 #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.
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