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Should I drop my Calculus III Course? Please HELP!

  1. Jun 28, 2015 #1
    Dear Physics Forum personnel,

    I am a college sophomore in US with major in mathematics and an aspiring algebraist. I wrote this email because I am having a great problem with my current Calculus III (vector calculus) course that I am taking for this Summer Semester. All of my fellow classmates and I are having some majors problems with the course, which make me (and other classmates) to argue whether I should drop this course and take history (for social science requirement) course for this Summer.

    Here are the major problems: my professor seems to be the major issue. The Calculus III course is a computational-level course (designed for STEM majors) but the professors has been lecturing from the theoretical viewpoints, even including the materials from manifold analysis and topology (he actually recommended Rudin's PMA and Spivak's Calculus on Manifolds as a nice reference(!), but majority of students are not familiar with the proofs and Calculus III does not expect any proof-writing skills from students), and he is not even interested in doing the example, computational problems during the lectures and discussions. Furthermore, he has been jumping around a lot and does not even follow the syllabus, which makes the reading before the lectures impossible. For example, he covered the partial derivative on one day and proceed to the linear transformation and topology on the next day, followed by the partial differential operators and limit proofs on the next day....very out of order from the syllabus. The required text for the course is "Schaum's Advanced Calculus", where the homework problems are derived from. The homework problems are computational problems but we never learned the techniques and problem-solving skills to tackle them....All of us, even TA's, are lost and cannot follow the professor. I tried to resolve the issue by purchasing Marsdcen/Tromba's "Vector Calculus" and Hubbard/Hubbard's "Vector Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Differential Forms", but I am still lost since my professor keeps jumping around and does not go in linear order as syllabus.....I know it is very pathetic to blame the professor, but all of us are having same problem with the professor....My professor has been teaching the topology and Calculus I, and it is his first time to teach Calculus III. Several of my friends who took Calculus I with that professor told me that his exams are very difficult and also contain topics not covered on the lectures.....Currently, over the half of total students dropped the course...

    I do not know what to do....this Calculus III course is a pre-requisite for the theoretical linear algebra course at my university, which is a foundation course before the analysis, algebra, topology, and other mathematical courses. However, I heard from my fellow math majors that the advisers are usually allow the students to take both Calculus III and theoretical linear algebra together. Should I drop my current Calculus III course and take it with the linear algebra course during the Fall? Or should I keep continuing with the course and try all my best?

    Please give me some advice!

    Sincerely,


    PK
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 28, 2015 #2

    RUber

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    PK, It sounds like you are very frustrated with the course, and your professor does not seem to be giving the students the appropriate tools for solving the problems. Have you tried meeting with your professor to discuss the frustration? If many students are having the same problem, perhaps find one brave volunteer who will raise the issue and report back to the rest of the class.
    Secondly, I am not sure how far into the class you are, but many professors like to spend the first week or so laying the theoretical foundations for the course, so that the computational perspective can be focused on later without needing to show why/how some tricks or techniques work.
    Also, you did not say whether you were in danger of failing or not. I personally would only drop the class if you think that the professor not the material will be a barrier to you passing.
     
  4. Jun 28, 2015 #3
    ^
    Thank you for the advice. I personally did not went to professor's office hour to brought up the issue, but some of my classmates did...Unfortunately, the professor was not that interested in fixing his style as since his teaching style is suitable to him. He is very, very smart professor but he seems to be not a good lecturer. About your second advice, I wish my professor will take that route but I think he will not do so. From what he said in the lecture on last Thursday, he told us that we will be covering (on this week) the maxima/minima, curls, and more about the transformation theory, followed by our first exam on this Thursday. I am not currently failing the course but I need to make a decision very soon as the deadline for switching the Summer courses is this Tuesday.
     
  5. Jun 28, 2015 #4

    RUber

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    It comes down to what you think you can handle. If you do drop the class, you will be able to complete a different requirement in the history course. If you choose not to drop, you stand to learn from a smart professor and become a bit smarter yourself.
    I have had similar courses where the lecturer was too far in the theory, and everyone felt lost. The way my class resolved it was be designating one person to ask any and every question that came up -- pertaining to the material presented. This slowed down the presentation and forced the professor to keep the class on the same page.
    It is nearly impossible to gauge how the whole class will go based on perceptions before the first exam, so good luck to you. I hope you are able to make the decision that is best for you. I would recommend staying in the class, and making use of this forum to assist you in understanding any topics that aren't presented well.
     
  6. Jun 28, 2015 #5

    symbolipoint

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    Drop the course! You are making no progress and the summer session is a risky way to earn and learn for a Mathematics class. If you are weak in any prerequisite knowledge, spend the rest of the summer time (not just the class session time) reviewing. Take your Calculus III course in the autumn term.
     
  7. Jun 28, 2015 #6
    Should I drop and take the history course?
     
  8. Jun 28, 2015 #7

    QuantumCurt

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    Taking calculus III during the summer is a bad idea in general, and even more so for a math major. I'd drop it and take the history course instead, then take calculus III during a regular semester when you'll have more time to devote to it.
     
  9. Jun 28, 2015 #8
    ^
    May I ask why taking Calculus III during the Summer Semester is a bad idea? I am quite curious.
     
  10. Jun 28, 2015 #9

    QuantumCurt

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    Because it's far more fast paced. They're trying to cram the same amount of material into half the time, which isn't easy. It involves the omission of material, proofs, deeper explanations, more examples, etc.

    ETA - This same reasoning applies to basically any math or science class.
     
  11. Jun 28, 2015 #10

    symbolipoint

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    You really have to ask this? You are already experiencing why!
     
  12. Jul 3, 2015 #11
    It is easier to digest and learn material in the more challenging courses over a 16 week semester than an 8-10 week Summer term.
     
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