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Schools Returning to University, learning Calculus?

  1. Nov 26, 2008 #1
    Hello all I have searched around and gathered some information before I asked this question. I wanted to ask this question directly to get some advice from the forum members. I currently am 28 years old and I am returning to College to get a Computer Science Degree. I currently have a BA in Accounting but never really worked as an Accountant. I currently am a Network Admin. While I do make a really nice salary I find the job completely unrewarding and boring to be honest. Also money really means very little to me and is no longer a driving factor. I have always enjoyed programming and have always wanted to go to College and get a Computer Science Degree. Its one of those bucket list type things.

    My question is the last math I took was atleast 7 years ago. I took Pre-Cal and then Calculus 1. I know I have forgotten probably all of the math I learned.

    I applied to go back in the Spring. But since I already have a degree I dont need to take any non major courses. Also I can jump right into Calculus II & then III without having to retake 1. I dont think I am going to do this to be honest, I think I will most likely Pass No Credit Cal 1 for a semester then proceed to II and III.

    This is going to be a marathon and not a sprint for me. This is my lifes passion and I want to do it right. I am taking programming courses next Spring and will hold off the Math courses until Fall. I wanted to know for these next 9 months what should I be doing to prepare for Calculus I?

    I own a Pre-Calculus book from when I took it in College. I have the Stewart Calculus book from College. I also just ordered the Spivak Calculus book after so many postive online reviews on it. Is the precalculus course book enough to start with or should I go back even further and get an Algebra book (Remember its been many years since I last looked at Math books)?
    Any recommened Path to learning what needs to be learned before Cal I? Any recommended Text Books?

    Thank you for any help it is really appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 26, 2008 #2
    That's great that you are deciding to go back to college. I too did the same thing. I was a teacher for three years, and then decided to go back to college to pursue a degree in physics and astronomy, with plans to attend graduate school.

    I had to brush up on my mathematics before going back to school. My first semester consisted of math courses in Calculus III, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra. Although I did extremely well in all of these courses, it is with hindsight that I wish I never enrolled in these courses. I say this because the lectures mainly consisted of the professor writing the textbook and their examples on the board. I had the ability to read a math textbook and learn from it myself, so this is one of the reasons I was disappointed. Not to mention the cost of tuition for these nine credits, which could have been allocated to other courses. I tell you this because you may be better off taking a different course than the Calculus I course, since you have already taken it and it will likely be accepted towards your degree requirements at your institution.

    You can probably brush up on Calculus I and even higher level math courses through self-study. A great resource to assist you is Cramster.com. Members publish solutions to many different texts (there are a lot of calculus texts), so you have many examples already organized for you if you get stuck somewhere. An annual membership costs $10.

    Do you definitively know that you don't have to complete any core general education courses to get your second degree? The second college I enrolled in has more rigorous core education requirements than my previous university, so if I wanted to have an actual B.S. degree, I would have to complete about 15 credits of core education classes. Fortunately, this is not necessary for my academic goals.

    Good luck.
  4. Nov 26, 2008 #3
    I would suggest either learning calc I as indepdent study or taking a quick community college class over the summer/winter break. It may just be that I'm a math major but the subject material is pretty basic and calc II classes will no doubt review a substantial part of calc I before moving on to new material.

    If I recall correctly Stewart should give you a solid foundation (used both in SFSU and UCB), so if you can go through that book upto whenever calc I ends you should feel good.
  5. Nov 26, 2008 #4
    I returned to school after nearly a 10 year layoff. I had taken calc 1 before, but I am glad I decided to take it again, there were parts I remembered from when I took it the first time, but others that I had completely forgotten. There is some review in calc 2, but I wouldn't go so far as to call it substantial. My calc 2 class spent maybe 2 class sessions reviewing integrals (integration by parts/u-substitution, etc), anything else you will be expected to already know. I would suggest reviewing some algebra/trig on your own and taking the calc 1 at a community college as it is substantially cheaper than a university. Calc 1 you will need to remember a lot of stuff from trig, and in calc 2 you will need to remember things like partial fractions and matrices.
  6. Nov 26, 2008 #5

    Thanks for all the replies. Yes I am positive about the core requirements being waved as I am attending the same college I received the first degree at. I know there are a wealth of resources online and I will take advantage of them. I'll start with the Precal book and see if it is still clear to me. I guess I can see how it goes and when the time comes to apply for cal 1 or cal 2, I will see how i've grasped the topics through self study. Thanks for all the positive comments and help.
  7. Nov 26, 2008 #6
    If you can handle teaching yourself, there are many universities that offer resources (lecture notes, old tests, homework assignments, etc.). Here is a nice site that lists some of the schools:
    http://www.ocwconsortium.org/use/use-dynamic.html [Broken]

    Many other universities offer coursework for non-credit (and for free). This site only offers a few of them. Try a Google search if you're interested.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  8. Nov 27, 2008 #7


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    Good on ya! I've known people that have gone (back) to university after some/many years away from a first crack (or just high school), and while it took a bit to adjust, they got into the swing of things after a few months (keeping in mind that this was engineering--so it was sink or swim, which forced their hand a tad).

    Stewart is pretty good, in terms of explaining the concepts, and providing lots of (solved) examples (at least, this was my experience with the 4th Edition, with early transcendentals). Since you have time to burn, you can do many/most of the problems at the end of the sections (you may want to start with the questions that have answers in the back). If you've already done most of it once doing problems should refresh things for you.

    In my experience, Spivak isn't so much a calculus textbook as an Analysis textbook (which presumes your knowledge and familiarity with calculus). It's more a guide to mathematical rigor and proofs, rather than Calculus. One thing I really disliked about it was that it often referred you to previous proofs you were supposed to have done in the course of reading the book. But that's probably because I was also trying to balance 5 other courses and not nearly enough time / motivation to do every problem in the book.

    On the other hand, this mathematical rigor and getting used to proving things is really handy when you're developing algorithms, or even just trying to understand a complicated problem (and thus, develop possible solutions). Or so I've been told (by people doing honors CS and CS grad school, so definitely more on the theoretical side of CS, rather than the implementation). As a 'normal' CS grad, you still need to do some of the above (algorithms and logic are the basis of CS, and not, say, merely being able to do stuff in C++, which is what you might go to trade school for, or learn via a book). Sorry to go off on a bit of a tangent there, but just to expand on the point.
  9. Nov 27, 2008 #8
    Just make sure you are comfortable with algebraic rules for manipulating equations, get a good grasp on modeling with the various types of functions (polynomials, exponential/logarithmic, trigonometric, etc.), and then you should be ready to review Calculus I material.

    I myself went back to school a couple years ago as well (for Electrical Engineering). I'm a couple weeks from finishing Calculus III (Multivariate), and will finish up in the mathematics department this spring with Diff-EQ (I already completed a course in Linear Algebra as well).

    Just make sure you have the Algebra/Pre-Calculus stuff down and you should be fine.
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