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Will not taking Calc 1 in highschool set me back?

  1. Jan 5, 2011 #1
    Hello, I am planning on majoring in physics in college next year. My school does not offer AP classes, and no Calculus at all. Will not taking Calculus in high school set me back for the first semester of undergrad?

    I have the option of taking it this summer, and I'm confident I can do well. Would it be worth it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 5, 2011 #2


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    Sure, take it during summer. Depending on the university, they might require you to have the first semester of calculus before taking your first intro physics course. However, even if you dont take the class and can't take the first course the first semester, it's no big deal. They'll offer it the next semester for sure.
  4. Jan 5, 2011 #3
    Check with your school. If calculus was a prerequisite for your program then you will most likely have to take a "0" level calculus course in your 1st term. If it wasn't (many times calc is just preferred for university) then I'd suggest taking a summer course, or study on your own. Students will be quite a bit ahead of you considering they have all ready solved hundreds of calculus problems in grade 12.
  5. Jan 5, 2011 #4
    It isn't required. You can take Calc the first semester along with the intro physics course. But I suppose I will take it this summer to get ahead. I have an A in pre cal right now, so hopefully I can do well in calculus.
  6. Jan 5, 2011 #5
    Yes, you will be set back an entire semester if you don't take it now. Options are to take the AP exam by self-study, taking it in a community college with joint/dual enrollment, and taking it the summer before college.

    Make sure it isn't trig physics.

    For the first half of physics all you need to know is how to take a derivative of a function. To take a derivative just reduce the exponential power of a factor by one and multiply the outside of that factor by the original power. Ex 4x^3 turns into 12x^2. Integration is the opposite.

    Presto you know enough calc for an entire semester of physics.
  7. Jan 5, 2011 #6
    Calculus isn't required? All of the Science programs in Canada require a Calculus & Vectors course with an Advanced Functions course.
  8. Jan 5, 2011 #7
    Err.. not really.
  9. Jan 6, 2011 #8
    Really? Every single program I've seen requires it.
  10. Jan 6, 2011 #9
    Don't worry about other kids. The physics program at my school is structured so that you can start at calculus I in your first year and still graduate in four years. In fact, taking it at the college level is probably preferred. From what I hear about AP programs (and from what I've experienced in my calc classes), they actually don't convey much in the way of understanding.
  11. Jan 6, 2011 #10
    My school's calc-based physics lists calculus as a co-requisite, which means that you must either take calculus before physics, or take calculus while you are taking physics. If that's the case at your school, I doubt it will hold you back.
  12. Jan 6, 2011 #11
    Well, for starters those specific courses are only taught in Ontario (and Quebec?), so if that was the case the rest of us would have had a bit of trouble being admitted. :smile: Also, plenty of universities don't require that type of class for "life sciences" like biology.

    With that being said, most provinces do offer some sort of HS calculus class which in reality turns out to be a mix of pre-calc and calculus. Based on my personal experience at the UofC and what I've heard from my Toronto friends at the UofT and YorkU, half of Calculus I at the university level ends up being a review of what was covered in high school.
  13. Jan 6, 2011 #12
    Depends on the teacher. My AP Calculus teacher taught the course with more rigor and insight than most of my college classes. The teacher also taught more topics than covered on the exam.
  14. Jan 6, 2011 #13
    To the OP, my best advice is to simply make sure you meet the pre-requisites for the program(s) that you applied to. If you do, you will most likely be fine.

    That's the problem though. It shouldn't depend on the teacher.
  15. Jan 6, 2011 #14
    My point was that all AP classes aren't created equal and someone shouldn't avoid it just because the quality of the program isn't as rigorous as it should be. It's probably better than the normal non-AP calculus class.
  16. Jan 6, 2011 #15
    The problem isn't high school vs AP, rather it's AP course vs. equivalent university credit. That's the intended purpose of the program.
  17. Jan 6, 2011 #16
    No, it won't set you back.
  18. Jan 6, 2011 #17
    it won't set you back, but its something worth learning before you begin, understanding calculus will help you understand and imagine first year physics better
  19. Jan 8, 2011 #18
    If you have the option of taking it in the summer, do it. Thankfully my school has both cal I and physics c ap course which I'm taking concurrently. It's not too bad. In my physics class but I do wish I had already finished calc so I ould have a een better grasp of it.

    You want to get the best grades you can especially working through the weeder classes your first two years so summer school can only help you. My dad took calc andchem during the summer right before going to college for EE and he says he's not sure he would have made it without it.

    Will it ruin your plans of get your degree in physics? Probably not. But taking the summer course and then retaking it concurrently with physics your first year will definitely help make things a little more manageable.
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