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Should I take Calculus I, or Calculus I and II?

  1. Mar 23, 2013 #1
    Hi, my name is Matthew, and I am a junior in high school. I will soon be faced with the decision of which classes to take as a senior. At my school, once you have taken Trigonometry, you can choose to go to this other school called MPI (math and physics institute) for the first two hours of your day during your senior year. I will have taken Trigonometry, and finished with a low A to a high B (I have maintained that grade all year). At MPI they offer three different options of classes to take.
    1.)Pre Calculus and normal physics (I have will already have taken normal physics and gotten a high A in the class all year at my normal high school)
    2).Calculus I and normal physics
    3).Calculus I (first semester) and Calculus II (second semester) and engineering physics.
    (all of these class sets count as college credit hours)
    I am a very hard working student, and love to challenge myself. I also love math, but it does not come naturally to me, and therefore it usually takes extra work for me to understand mathematical concepts. While I would really like to challenge myself and take Calculus I and II, I am not sure that it would be worth my time if I do not get a good grade in it.

    P.S. After these classes are over I will return to my normal high school, and will have my first hour free. During this time I will be able to receive help from my math teacher now. Also I plan to pursue a degree in computer science after graduation so I will have to take these classes no matter what I decide to do.

    I apologize if any of this was unclear, and would find any responses/advice helpful.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2013 #2
    I would opt for option 3. Is Engineering Physics calculus based physics?
  4. Mar 23, 2013 #3
    As long as you're sure that you won't let yourself fail I'd say go for it. Not many schools have these options.

    Edit: if you haven't already taken the precalculus class then I would advise against taking options 2 and 3. But if you can take in the summer then options 2 and 3 will be ok for you.
  5. Mar 23, 2013 #4


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    The answer to this depends heavily on how good your algebra is. If I ask you to write an equation to a line, simplify an equation, definition of absolute value, rules for logs and exponents, and you don't make the common mistakes associated with those things, then you should be okay for calculus. From my experience, calculus (at least the first encounter) is not very difficult calculus wise, but extremely tedious because the algebra is assumed knowledge.

    I wouldn't worry to much about pre-calculus, unless you truly feel your algebra skills are sub-par. Otherwise, with two courses in algebra and trig under your belt, you should be good to go for calculus.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2013
  6. Mar 23, 2013 #5
    Hmm TheAbsoluTurk brings up a good point here. I think that precalculus may not be necessary if you did well in trigonometry, but I am not acquainted with your math skills. Perhaps you should take a look at a few lectures on Khan Academy for Calculus I. My Calculus I class was online with the lectures of Edward Burger and everything was very well explained. If you have a good understanding of basic arithmetic, algebra (fractions, polynomials, exponentials and logarithms) and trigonometry, I think you can navigate well through Calculus I. Even basic geometry like calculating area is very useful. And IMO calculus II requires a good understanding of calculus I.
  7. Mar 23, 2013 #6
    Calculus is easy, its the algebra that gets you.

    Grades, in my experience, have a strong correlation to time invested in productive study. How do you spend your free time? Is that something you can give up or do less of? Plan to continue putting extra time into math. Be sure you have enough time for your other academic/life investments.

    Advice: Start Studying before the course starts
    *Allocate introductory calculus study materials. Can you get the book your school uses?
    *Set aside 1 hour a week (like Saturday or Sunday) to start learning about calculus. Work problems.
    *Meet with your future professor to get an idea of what to expect.
  8. Mar 23, 2013 #7
    I will be able to meet my professor before I start the course. I am confident that I will not let myself fail either course, and I am almost positive that I do not need to take pre calculus. This summer I have planned on starting to work calculus problems, and starting to write my own programs. and I'm 90% sure that engineering physics is still algebra based, but it moves at a faster pace, and it covers a few more concepts than normal physics.
  9. Mar 23, 2013 #8
    I have been, and am doing well in trigonometry helixe
  10. Mar 23, 2013 #9
    I asked a friend who did not take Calc I and II, but did go to MPI. He said that engineering physics is calculus based
  11. Mar 23, 2013 #10
    In my country (British Columbia, Canada) the math curriculum was called 'Principles of Mathematics.' Starting a couple years ago, the name was changed to 'pre-calculus.' I know one person who attempted calculus AP without doing grade 12 math (neither Principles of Mathematics 12 nor Pre-calculus 12) so it is possible. But as people mentioned algebra is the main thing. I'm not sure what pre-calculus means in your country/state so it's hard to say whether you need to take it.
  12. Mar 24, 2013 #11
    ^^very good advice and very true...there were so many times in calculus I that I found the calculus easy and the algebra annoying.
    Being good in trigonometry will really help you with calculus applications to transcendental functions. Good knowledge of the identities will be especially helpful in calculus II and III. Of course one could always access a list of identities, but in my opinion being comfortable with trig brings a definite ease in solving problems.

    I am not sure what you are majoring in, but if you plan to major in physics, engineering, chemistry, or other related fields that require calculus and physics, the standard is usually calculus based physics-- so it seems Engineering Physics would be the way to go. You may get college credit for the other physics classes, only to find that you still have to take Engineering Physics later. I would look into the requirements of your intended major to see how that would work out.
  13. Mar 24, 2013 #12
    I plan to major in computer science, so I will have to take up to Calculus III, and Calculus based physics II.
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