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So my school is being ridiculous and making me take this stupid, boring, useless, and obscenely difficult calculus course.

(Meaning, I did too well on the placement tests to take an easier math. And have to take a math. So I have to take calculus. GAHHHH.)

I'm just not keeping up in general. Everyone likes the teacher and I guess I understand him during class, but then I go to do homework or take a test and I haven't retained anything. It's a combination of me just not being good at math as well as it being mind-numbingly boring. My eyes just glaze over looking at numbers, I swear. I'm a highly verbal person and it just doesn't mean anything to me.

I generally need a motivation booster. I just need to pass. Can somebody convince me that calculus is neither boring nor totally useless? Or offer advice on not sucking at calculus? Anything? At all? PLEASE? :frustrating:
 

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Calculus is used in every branch of the physical sciences, actuarial science, computer science, statistics, engineering, economics, business, medicine, demography, and in other fields wherever a problem can be mathematically modeled and an optimal solution is desired. It allows one to go from (non-constant) rates of change to the total change or vice versa, and many times in studying a problem we know one and are trying to find the other.

Physics makes particular use of calculus; all concepts in classical mechanics and electromagnetism are interrelated through calculus. The mass of an object of known density, the moment of inertia of objects, as well as the total energy of an object within a conservative field can be found by the use of calculus. An example of the use of calculus in mechanics is Newton's second law of motion: historically stated it expressly uses the term "rate of change" which refers to the derivative saying The rate of change of momentum of a body is equal to the resultant force acting on the body and is in the same direction. Commonly expressed today as Force = Mass × acceleration, it involves differential calculus because acceleration is the time derivative of velocity or second time derivative of trajectory or spatial position. Starting from knowing how an object is accelerating, we use calculus to derive its path.

Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism and Einstein's theory of general relativity are also expressed in the language of differential calculus. Chemistry also uses calculus in determining reaction rates and radioactive decay. In biology, population dynamics starts with reproduction and death rates to model population changes.

Calculus can be used in conjunction with other mathematical disciplines. For example, it can be used with linear algebra to find the "best fit" linear approximation for a set of points in a domain. Or it can be used in probability theory to determine the probability of a continuous random variable from an assumed density function. In analytic geometry, the study of graphs of functions, calculus is used to find high points and low points (maxima and minima), slope, concavity and inflection points.

Green's Theorem, which gives the relationship between a line integral around a simple closed curve C and a double integral over the plane region D bounded by C, is applied in an instrument known as a planimeter which is used to calculate the area of a flat surface on a drawing. For example, it can be used to calculate the amount of area taken up by an irregularly shaped flower bed or swimming pool when designing the layout of a piece of property.

In the realm of medicine, calculus can be used to find the optimal branching angle of a blood vessel so as to maximize flow. From the decay laws for a particular drug's elimination from the body, it's used to derive dosing laws. In nuclear medicine, it's used to build models of radiation transport in targeted tumor therapies.

In economics, calculus allows for the determination of maximal profit by providing a way to easily calculate both marginal cost and marginal revenue.

Calculus is also used to find approximate solutions to equations; in practice it's the standard way to solve differential equations and do root finding in most applications. Examples are methods such as Newton's method, fixed point iteration, and linear approximation. For instance, spacecraft use a variation of the Euler method to approximate curved courses within zero gravity environments.
Does that convince you that calculus isn't useless?
 

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Does your school have a tutoring center? I worked as a calculus tutor at our student tutoring center my freshman and sophomore years, and there were people who had to come in literally once or twice a week so they could get help with every single homework assignment-- because otherwise they wouldn't have passed. Some people just aren't cut out for calc, and I know it's annoying to surrender and say "okay, I need help with this," but there's really no shame in getting tutored if it's going to help you pass.

There's also some really good sites online that are great for explaining things. I don't recall any off the top of my head right now but I'll come back later and post a couple of links.
 

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Do you have a good understanding of derivatives and integration? If you don't, then that could be why you are having trouble. Those two concepts make up a good chunk of calculus. If that is your trouble, I would suggest that you would ask your teacher or a tutor for clarification. And there also could be some anxiety issues. Perhaps you were intimidated by taking a hard class, and thus you fell victim to a self-fulfilling prophecy. All I can say here is this: Don't give up.
 

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Does that convince you that calculus isn't useless?
Not to mention, it's used a lot in business and finance. So if you want to be an investment banker, the kind that pisses gold & shits Lamborghinis... go for the tutoring.

Seriously, if you were too dumb, you wouldn't have been screened and placed there.

Otherwise, I don't know what to say. Calculus was one of my favorite courses...it was fun to figure things out myself and "invent" theories that we wouldn't even learn until next week...the beautiful thing is, it ALL MAKES LOGICAL SENSE. You don't have to any rote memorization shit, because the reasoning behind the theorems, etc make sense and are pretty interesting to work out in your mind.

So have fun with it! It's a game. As a result, you'll get the highest grades in class...like I did. Good luck. :wink:
 

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Again I'll say - find ways to apply concepts to the outside world, you will remember them. Most people who are proficient in mathematics can usually visualize these numerical arrangements (most people I've asked, anyway). Practice the problems every day, as much as you can. There's no other way to do it. Familiarize yourself with math in general, start with the basics and make connections or develop ways to memorize formulas.

Do NOT go into an assignment dreading it, it will affect your performance. I used to go into my calc I lecture as blithe as a feather and any time the professor lectured, I'd assume to not understand what he's talking about and only gather pieces of information. This is insufficient in calculus and it really fucks you up. You have to know how to do things the right way and COMPLETELY. If you are not naturally gifted at mathematics or intuitively hear the interconnected symphony of numbers that is calculus, you must not only read the book, but go to tutoring centers that may simplify things for you.

Other than that... once you understand it more, that is, the more you do it, the more it will all make sense to you - which is priceless. You might even start feeling silly for not figuring it out before. Also, if you happen to learn something exciting, like a shorthand, by reading ahead of the book, don't try to incorporate it into the stuff you're learning presently because it might not work and your profs won't validate the answer. Cough.
 

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Do you have lots of examples to look at and go through? I find it good to work out how an answer was reached and why they did what they did.
 

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So my school is being ridiculous and making me take this stupid, boring, useless, and obscenely difficult calculus course.
Well, there's your problem right there; attitude. You need to change your approach here, or you're doomed. If you don't want to learn, you won't. It's that simple.

Isn't it sensible to insist that you understand math or at least exercise your brain in this manner?

Isn't calculus actually an intelligent and noble exercise of the human mind?

Is not calculus intrinsically useful as it has played an integral (snicker, snicker) role in the advancement of our technology and thus the quality of life of our species?

By it's very nature, isn't calculus master-able? If it's learn-able, you can learn it.

If you can bring your perspective around, your grades will follow.

Beyond attitude adjustments, I would recommend going back to the first few chapters and memorize every derivation of every method to such an extent that you could teach it. If you do not master this, you will not be able to understand just what it is that you are doing. You're not just plugging numbers into an equation here. If you can intimately understand the nature of the equation, the numbers will work themselves.



Oh, and don't fail as this will make us NTs look bad. :tongue::crazy:
 

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Link....

Essays on the Calculus has some fun stuff about Calculus that may be useful if you prefer something more verbose than traditional Math texts.

There are other parts of Calculus besides derivatives and integrals. Limits, sequences and series are a few other things found in some Calculus courses.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I asked about tutoring, but they're trying to charge me money I don't have for it. Working on making some mathematically inclined friends to help me. My professor's advice was basically to drop the class and try to fight my way into a lower math. Math's not a big department at my school, I think the math department has a chip on its shoulder because nobody actually likes it. I don't think a math major or minor is even available. :tongue:

Yeah, I'm still not solid on the derivatives thing. I get all the rules and stuff (power rule, chain rule...) but I feel like we just skimmed over (or maybe I just didn't understand) what it actually all means, you know? I can't logically reason it through if I don't have a logical basis for it. My textbook doesn't answer "What -is- a derivative? or even "What -is- calculus?" and I need that. Google's confusing me more.

And there's an attitude element, I know. As I get more discouraged it gets harder to appreciate the class. Plus, what kind of ENTP am I if math doesn't click? haha
 

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My best definition of calculus is "a branch of mathematics that deals with finding out a bunch of stuff about a mathematical function." I'm not sure how accurate that is, but that's my take on it. :tongue:

I think I can explain derivatives, but I may just end up confusing you more. Derivatives are equations that show the rate of change of the original function. You know how in algebra the basic formula for a linear equation is y=mx+b, where m=slope/rate of change? Well, this is basically what we're talking about here, except that the derivative is the slope/rate of change for the entire equation. In a parabola (u-shaped graph), for instance, the slope/rate of change isn't the same at all places. The derivative can be used to determine the slope/rate of change for any point on the graph of the equation. Does this make sense or is this too jargony? ^_^U
 

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Another attempt

Yeah, I'm still not solid on the derivatives thing. I get all the rules and stuff (power rule, chain rule...) but I feel like we just skimmed over (or maybe I just didn't understand) what it actually all means, you know? I can't logically reason it through if I don't have a logical basis for it. My textbook doesn't answer "What -is- a derivative? or even "What -is- calculus?" and I need that. Google's confusing me more.
If you are familiar with the idea of a tangent, which is a line that intersects with a curve at only one point, the derivative is a way to compute the slope of the tangent. This is one interpretation..

Another idea is to know how much is the function changing at that particular point. If the derivative is positive then the function is increasing and if the derivative is negative then the function is decreasing. This can be useful for optimization problems as if a function goes from increasing to decreasing, this suggests a local maximum. Look at a graph of f(x) = sin(x) for the interval [0, pi]. There is a local maximum at pi/2 which just happens to be where the derivative is zero if you graph the derivative f'(x) = cos(x). There is a flip version for local minimum if the derivative is going the other way from negative to positive.

Just trying to add a little more detail that may be helpful possibly.
 

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If you are familiar with the idea of a tangent, which is a line that intersects with a curve at only one point, the derivative is a way to compute the slope of the tangent. This is one interpretation..
*slaps forehead* I totally forgot about that! That'll certainly make things a bit clearer. It's been a few years since I've been in a calc class...high school, to be exact. Thanks! :crazy:
 

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Otherwise, I don't know what to say. Calculus was one of my favorite courses...it was fun to figure things out myself and "invent" theories that we wouldn't even learn until next week...the beautiful thing is, it ALL MAKES LOGICAL SENSE. You don't have to any rote memorization shit, because the reasoning behind the theorems, etc make sense and are pretty interesting to work out in your mind.
Great post!

Now leave our forum, you are not one of us!
 
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