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Teaching your self calculus?

  1. Oct 29, 2008 #1
    with a strong foundation in algebra (1&2), would i be able to get a calculus book, read through it and begin to understand the concepts? ill be in precalculus this spring, but the curriculum at my institution isnt that complex. some trig and algebraic gymnastics. i was actually able to do my friends homework nearly every time he had trouble.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 29, 2008 #2
    You should be fine. All you really need is good algebra skills to succeed in calculus. The only thing you will miss out on is a professors perspective which is helpful in that it supplements the text well, but this is far from required. It may be difficult for you but its doable.

    I would recommend choosing a text wisely
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2008
  4. Oct 29, 2008 #3
    what text would you suggest? i was just going to go to the book store at school and buy the one they use there because for calc 1 and 2 they use the same book so i figured id kill two birds with one stone. but i just started a new job and have extra money. what are some suggestions?
  5. Oct 29, 2008 #4
    I would say it depends on your goals. If you want a user friendly introductory text I would say Stewart as alot of community colleges use this text. There are of course texts of greater rigor from which you will learn more and develop greater problem solving ability idealy, but which require more mathematical maturity. you be the judge. Also this is just my opinion
  6. Oct 29, 2008 #5
    Sure you can teach yourself calculus. I taught myself calculus back when I was sixteen, and I am by no means an exceptionally gifted individual. Calculus is pretty simple mathematics, so with the proper algebra skills you can certainly grab a book and understand enough of it to take derivatives and integrals. When I did it, I had trouble with some of the more difficult problems involving the chain rule and certain types of limits, but I definitel understood all of the basics.

    As MbisCool suggested, James Stewart's textbook would probably be what you're looking for. It's written at an elementary level and has plenty of illustrative diagrams. I would get that. Plus, when you take calculus in college, that'll probably be the textbook you use.
  7. Oct 29, 2008 #6
    the cc i go to uses books by ron larson so ill have to get it off amazon.
  8. Oct 29, 2008 #7


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    You need good basic Trigonometry knowledge and Intermediate Algebra proficiency. With those, you have enough to study the first two semesters of Calculus on your own.
  9. Oct 29, 2008 #8
    yea, calculus is nice because almost no precalc knowledge is required whatsoever. All you need to no are the basic trig functions and a few identities... maybe polar coordinates, but these were only necessary in calc III as a foundation for other coordinate systems. Pre calc is essential just an extension of algebra II. it just solidifies your knowledge.
  10. Oct 30, 2008 #9
    know of any place i can read up on said material? (basic trig functions and identities?)
  11. Oct 30, 2008 #10
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2008
  12. Oct 30, 2008 #11
    I would strongly disagree that pre-calculus is not important. You might be able to just pick up a calculus text, learn the algorithms, and crank out derivatives/integrals - but you will probably hit a wall when it comes to applying calculus techniques in word problems - you will just be a Ti-89 that takes longer and has a higher probability of error.

    Once your algebra skills are strong, pre-calculus will teach you further modeling techniques - and not just using algebraic functions. An ability to model with trigonometric and other transcendental functions is very important for continued understanding of math, science, and engineering. Pre-calculus also focuses heavily on the limit, which is at the foundation of understanding the derivative and fundamental theorems of calculus.

    I didn't get a proper pre-calculus preparation in high school, and although I got a B+ in Calculus I my first time around, I bombed Calculus II. Two years ago I started over with Pre-Calculus, and A's have followed me through Calculus I, Calculus II, and now Calculus III (Multivariable). The grades aren't even the best part... it's having the understanding and way of thought to analyze problems that seem impossible on the surface.

    Don't brush over pre-calculus or race through it without taking the time to think about the material at hand... it's key!
  13. Oct 30, 2008 #12
    I can't even remember seeing a limit in precalc... I'm sure we looked at them, but we in no way examined their depth. But yea, like the above guy was saying, make sure you have a very firm understand of functions. Quite necessary in order to understand the actual concepts of calculus (these are what matter). So yea, concepts are essential! Being able to take a derivative is worthless if you do not understand how to use a derivative.
  14. Oct 30, 2008 #13
    You can teach yourself calc. For me, I taught myself precalc so I could get to calculus because I wanted to take calculus. However, let it be know that teaching yourself a whole course to yourself (like calc) can be demanding. I remember nights when I was teaching myself precalc and it was getting tiresome. Some nights I didn't want to even bother opening up my precalc book because I was sick of studying. I didn't give up though and i was able to move up to calculus. On the plus side, when you teach yourself calculus you don't have to be so self conscious about showing all your work to the teacher (because you are the teacher!).

    In short, would it be worth in it the long run? Yes, but only if you are determined to stick with it.
  15. Oct 30, 2008 #14
    When I was somewhere in highschool I taught myself calc out of a book that simply told you how to do calculus, not understand anything. It was fine for me then because I only wanted to learn calculus to work through a physics book. I would like to know why do you want to learn calculus? To develop your mathematical or to apply it somewhere? If the former then you should learn it properly. IF you just want to know how to do calculus without understanding it, I think I used "Teach Yourself Calculus", I'm not sure of the author.
  16. Oct 30, 2008 #15
    im taking precalc in the spring. im interested in making a attempt at teaching my self calc so i can take a diagnostic test and go into a calc 2 class. even if i have to take the calc class i wouldnt mind.
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