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Should I drop this class?

  1. Feb 7, 2012 #1
    I am really struggling with my Calculus 1 class. I have a book and everything for it I do all the problems from the book including the homework that the teacher provides us. I find the homeworks very hard and I have no clue how to solve some of them.
    The thing is when I took a placement test I scored a point lower than what I needed to score to take calculus in college, then I was placed in Pre-Calculus, which kind of improved my skills with trig functions and many other skills which are necessary for the Calculus course.
    I don't know what to do quite honestly. The book that we have does not explain the material the way it is suppose to and the teacher only goes over what the book covers, so the things become unclear after a while for me. I keep thinking that I should drop the class and maybe take it with somebody else that might teach the material better.

    Please let me know what you think I should do. I would really appreciate it if you point me to some websites or something that will give me extra explanation if you think I should stay.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 7, 2012 #2
    What degree are you doing? In many cases in my experience you can't just drop a class and take it up again at a later stage...
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
  4. Feb 7, 2012 #3
    Computer science and I am only taking calculus because it is required for my major.
  5. Feb 7, 2012 #4
    Then no, if it is required for your major, you will have to take and face the beast eventually. I'm sure you could drop and just take it again, but then again to me that sounds like a waste of money. It's still somewhat early in the semester and there is time for you to take the time needed to grasp the concepts.

    Calculus, especially the way it is taught at most universities isn't exactly very hard. It just takes a perspective and problem solving skill set you haven't formed yet. My advice is just to kick it up a gear. If your professor cannot explain a concept to you, ask another. Ask peers, form a study group, I can promise you that you will not be alone. Heck, I met my wife in a study group I formed during my one and only semester at college (long story). Even though I didn't particularly need it, I found that working with other people to solve hard problem gives you a good perspective on things that often times you overlook, so I imagine it'll be helpful for you.
  6. Feb 7, 2012 #5


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    I'll start with this question...have you been to your professor's office hours? If not, get yourself there promptly! That's what they are for. If after using office hours you are still struggling and are in danger of failing, then drop and try again with a different professor in case that helps. If you have to do that, it's also time to do some serious thinking about your choice of major. If you're struggling with the required coursework so early, you may not have found the right fit for you. So, while you might just need a second go at it to do well, plan for the worst and have a back-up plan for a major that doesn't require calc.
  7. Feb 8, 2012 #6
    To add to the excellent advice that others already gave:

    Khan academy has wonderful videos. Check them out. There are probably also Calculus videos available at the website of MIT: use them.

    What book are you using?? Maybe we can suggest a better one?

    Finally, ASK QUESTIONS. Ask questions to your professor, your TA, your classmates and on PF. You have SO much chances available to help you. Use all the opportunities that you have.

    Furthermore, you may not realize this, but mathematics and calculus can really be seen as a computer science subject. That is: you can use your CS-experience to help you. For example: you can write derivatives in code. What logical steps do I need to follow in order to get to the derivative? Just an idea.

    You'll have to take the class sooner or later. Dropping the class is ONLY an option if you plan to self-study the material in the summer.
  8. Feb 8, 2012 #7
    This book, along with its video lectures are extremely useful during calculus, by far the best help I can suggest in addition to previously mentioned things:
  9. Feb 8, 2012 #8
    What's wrong with "very Hard"? Your in College - some of it is going to be "very hard". This is good - it would get boring if it was "very easy". It's only a problem if it's too hard... if that's the case, after a valiant effort, you should seek out your lecturer.

    It may be some problems *are* too hard - sometimes teachers set some really hard problems to stretch the ablest students beyond the limit. Check past exam papers to see if the questions are as hard as the hardest homework questions.

    That's nonsensical! The book explains things the way the book does. How can you say it explains the material wrongly? Are you a professor of calculus? Just *accept the book*. If you feel it's too informal, doesn't give proofs, or whatever, then you can wait until the holidays to "do it in your preferred way" - if you must! But for now take it as the bible. Calculus 1 is hard enough without trying to rewrite the book.

    And that's bad? It always got bad for me when the teacher went "off book". If he stays "on book" then you always have the book to fall back on.

    I'd tough this out...
  10. Feb 8, 2012 #9
    Do you definitely need to do Calculus 1 for CS major? In the UK it's usually not required. Example course:

    http://www.cs.manchester.ac.uk/undergraduate/programmes/courseunits/syllabus.php?code=COMP11120&year=2011 [Broken]

    This looks quite tough - maybe they figure that in the unlikely event a CS graduate will need to use calculus, if he can do this course he can self learn it!

    Also the requirements are: "A-level: Grades AAB including mathematics" - and that will include some calculus (but not the heavyweight amount that the US courses seem to require)
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  11. Feb 8, 2012 #10
    I think you're right. I don't see why calculus is needed anywhere in CS. I think that you should rather see calculus as some kind of weeder course: it weeds out the students who are not going to make it anyway.

    Your UK schedule seems quite rigorous and hard, so I don't think they have any need of a weeder course.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  12. Feb 8, 2012 #11
    Depends what you want to do in computer science, important to remember computer science is different then being a programmer. Most computer science majors see it as programming but this is not the case. They don't see the distinction between computer science and software engineer. Advanced topics in computer science have lots of high level mathematics.

    If your really unhappy with doing the math and are more interested in being a programmer a software engineering degree would suit you better.
  13. Feb 8, 2012 #12


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    All good stuff above, but here's my advice.

    It seems to me that you are resistant to the subject. "I can't do it"...."it's too hard"...etc. This is not helping.

    Try studying more. Try immersing yourself in the subject. Try working with other students and having them explain some things. Commit to the matter at hand.....work hard and you will succeed.

    Also, you do need strong algebra and trigonometry skills to do well in calculus. Perhaps you need to walk before you can run.

    Calculus is made to make life easier...not harder. Without it, in some cases it could take over 100 years to solve a problem. With calculus, these problems can be solved in 10 seconds.

    Calculus is all about the rate of change....or the derivative. Velocity is the derivative of distance over time. How long did it take to travel that distance? Acceleration is the derivative of velocity. How long did it take to make that change in velocity?

    Immerse yourself. Let yourself go. Decide to pass this class with at least a "B" no matter what it takes!!!
  14. Feb 8, 2012 #13


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    What about the probabilistic aspects of queuing theory for network or database design, massively parallel algorithms, etc .... ??

    Maybe you don't need a lot of calculus, but that's not the same not even knowing what it is.

    Disclaimer: I never did a CS degree, but I have done quite a bit of high performance computing.
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