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What do students usually struggle with in Calculus I and II

  1. Aug 23, 2011 #1
    I am applying for a tutoring position at my schools math learning center, and part of the application process is a little examination based on questions which tend to be asked by students visiting the center.

    I am just curious what the biggest issues for students tend to be so that I can do a little bit of review (I didnt really have any major issues in any of the intro calc sequences, so cant really say for sure what I had a problem with. I can of course speculate, but that's it) -- I ask what people generally struggle with because these are the things most likely to show up.

    thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 23, 2011 #2


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    I'm not familiar with the america education system, so I can't help directly. However, I would suggest looking through the Homework forums and seeing which topics appear most frequently.
  4. Aug 23, 2011 #3
    I would say optimization/related rates, the single variable volume integrals, trig subs, integration by parts and series. Probably a few more but those are what comes to mind.
  5. Aug 23, 2011 #4
    It has been many years since I tutored in mathematics, but my recollection is that what gave students the most trouble on a day-to-day basis was plain old algebra: multiplying, dividing, and factoring polynomials, simplifying radicals, completing the square-- etc. Or the dreaded partial fractions. Of course, maybe your students are better prepared.
  6. Aug 23, 2011 #5


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    I second awkward's sentiments. I taught calculus for many years, both the watered down "business" calculus course, the 3 semester standard course, and even the awful "reformed" version. While you will encounter some students actually having trouble with the calculus concepts, far and away the greater number will have difficulties because of inadequate algebra, trigonometry, and even arithmetic skills.

    Now the primary schools are dropping cursive writing. But I digress..don't get me started.:grumpy:
  7. Aug 23, 2011 #6
    Okay, thanks for chiming in everyone.

    When I talked to the person who runs the center she said it was more just to see what applicants remember; but a quick run-over couldnt hurt.

    Thanks again
  8. Aug 23, 2011 #7
    as someone who had to drop and retake precalculus twice (my how far I've come) I can tell you from experience that the number 1 thing I struggled with was just plain old anxiety. I would know how to work problems fine, but for some reason whenever I walked in the classroom I started sweating alot and thinking how this one test will make or break my entire career. Thinking waaaay toooo far down the road.

    The second biggest problem I had was with logarithms. I just didn't have a clue how to approach them. I lucked out because the guy that taught my GMAT prep course (yes, business school was the plan, but after watching other MBA grads be unemployed just like me without the degree, I stopped half way through and decided to add two more undergrad degrees. I seriously think a BS in math is worth more than an mba, depending on what school its from) had a phd in pure math from nyu. He helped a lot. Other than that, I'd recomend making sure that they spend a lot of time in calc 2. For some reason it was alot harder than calc 3 for me.

    anyways, hope that helps and sorry for my ramblings. Four cups of joe will do that.
  9. Aug 23, 2011 #8


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    i agree with awkward. it is the prerequisite material that is missing 99% of the time.
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