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Math Help - Calculus Students with bad backgrounds

  1. #1
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    Unhappy Calculus Students with bad backgrounds

    I was wondering if there are any other students here who entered into calculus with a bad knowledge of topics such as logarithms and trigonometry. I took pre-calculus twice to try learn these subjects but we never got there both times(bad teachers in both occasions). I was wondering if anyone has had this experience and what they did to overcome this problem. I am now in calculus 2 and did fairly well in calculus one by avoiding transcendental functions however, I can't avoid them forever and it seems that self study into these topics is tedious and extremely time consuming for me if I'm not in a class to learn the big picture of these concepts. What makes it difficult is that at the same time that I am trying to master these ideas I am in a calculus 2 class and 2 other classes and also have a job to worry about. It just seems nearly impossible. I just want some stories of experience and what people have done to overcome similar problems in their quest to learn higher mathematics.
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  2. #2
    Rhymes with Orange Chris L T521's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yoshinator View Post
    I was wondering if there are any other students here who entered into calculus with a bad knowledge of topics such as logarithms and trigonometry. I took pre-calculus twice to try learn these subjects but we never got there both times(bad teachers in both occasions). I was wondering if anyone has had this experience and what they did to overcome this problem. I am now in calculus 2 and did fairly well in calculus one by avoiding transcendental functions however, I can't avoid them forever and it seems that self study into these topics is tedious and extremely time consuming for me if I'm not in a class to learn the big picture of these concepts. What makes it difficult is that at the same time that I am trying to master these ideas I am in a calculus 2 class and 2 other classes and also have a job to worry about. It just seems nearly impossible. I just want some stories of experience and what people have done to overcome similar problems in their quest to learn higher mathematics.
    All I can suggest doing is going through examples and keep practicing. Memorizing things and processes really won't help you in the future...understanding why it works will get you farther in the long run.

    First, whenever you get stuck with anything, the dedicated staff and members here at MHF will be willing to help you through thick and thin. Post your questions showing some effort (after all, in order to succeed, you need to do things yourself the first time... ). Don't be afraid to make a mistake on a problem; it is a part of the learning process. As we know, we learn through our mistakes...

    Second, try to find online tutorials to help bring you up to speed on the topics you're struggling with. I would suggest looking through Paul's Online Math Notes for tutorials on Algebra, Calculus I, II, III and other topics. (I believe Paul covers precalculus in his algebra tutorial.) His algebra and trig review may be of use to you. Also, go to your local library and get books like "Precalculus for Dummies", etc. and look through them. Looking through additional textbooks may be useful as well.

    I'll let others chime in and suggest things for you to do.

    I hope this is enough to help you overcome the current struggles you have!!
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  3. #3
    No one in Particular VonNemo19's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yoshinator View Post
    I was wondering if there are any other students here who entered into calculus with a bad knowledge of topics such as logarithms and trigonometry.
    Very few people go into calculus prepared as well as they should be. I myself had never encountered logs before calc, so I know how you feel. Once I understood, however, that a lack of this knowledge would severely affect my grade I, got to studyinng. As the previous poster mentioned, memorization is but a crutch. A good working understanding of logs requires knowledge of the fundamental theorems. If you read what I am about to give you, and fully ynderstand everything that is written, you will wish that all calc problems dealt with logs.

    http://www.mente.elac.org/faculty/de.../ch12/12_4.pdf
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  4. #4
    Member McScruffy's Avatar
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    Personally, I felt less than prepared going into calc 1. I basically taught myself precalculus, as I didn't take it in high school and calc is my first college mathematics course. Given that, there were some gaps in my knowledge. I'm a few weeks away from the end of calc 1, and I'm doing pretty well. For me the only real way to get past a lack of background is to do a lot of problems, and I have. And if there is something that you just can't figure out, the best thing to do is to have someone show you how to do it, and then practice it a lot. Trig was one of my weaker areas, so once I understand a calc concept I practice it with trig problems. It seems to me that you can get by to a point working your way around areas that aren't as well know, but in the end it will catch up to you.
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  5. #5
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    Look we any of us can put a ‘spin’ on this but it is not true.
    If someone does not know basic pre-calculus: basic algebra, trigonometric functions, as well as knowing the properties of exponential functions, that person has no business taking any form of calculus. That person is simply not prepared for the level of rigor required for any course in calculus.

    So you seem to be completely underprepared to do any course in calculus.
    That is a hard statement to read, but it is true.
    Do your self a favor, choose a major that does no require calculus.

    If that is impossible then go back and learn pre-calculus.
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  6. #6
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    Thanks to everyone for your replies. The only thing to do I guess is to keep at it and spend every second that I'm not in class or working, home studying. The last reply was harsh but I have felt that way and was also the reason I took Pre-calc twice thinking that we would cover the topics necessary for calculus. I have considered taking pre-calc again and maybe I will, however I am not giving up on math. Thanking you all for your replies.
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