How to succeed in this course
There is little doubt that Calculus is useful: it is used throughout the sciences and engineering, from
quantum mechanics and weather
prediction to space flight to nanotechnology and financial modelling. But that is just part of
the story. When you study mathematics, you learn about the language of science. You gain access to the ideas of
several of the greatest scientific minds humanity has produced, like Newton, Leibnitz, Euler, Gauss. Whether you
believe it or not, as the distinguished mathematician I. Gelfand said, "the most important thing a student can get from the study of Mathematics
is the attainment of a higher intellectual level".
With Mathematics, like with any advanced skill, the learning process is never quick nor painless. Here are a few
things to be considered that might help you succeed in this class:
- This class requires the student to make a step beyond the level achieved in Math 110.
Many ideas and notions are discussed along the course, and it is almost impossible to memorize them all, and even less to use them
effectively. It is all about understanding and practicing. So, practice-practice-practice is the name of the game. The assignments, and even the recommended practice questions, are only the tip of the iceberg. This class requires you to read and practice continuously. The maturity required to succeed in this class cannot be obtained in a mad-rush night-before-the-midterm style.
- Keep up with the material covered in class. Mathematics classes tend to build directly on what you have
already learned. If you fall behind it can be very difficult to catch up.
- Do lots of practice problems. Think of the list of recommended problems as a starting point and,
if after having completed those problems you are still having difficulty, then do even more problems
(you can try the web, and also calculus books are not in short supply at the library). If you can barely do the questions
from the assignment, it is hard to imagine that you would be able to do a related question, without help, under the stress situation of the exam. Conclusion: practice, practice, practice.
- Take advantage of the additional resources available to you. These include the textbook, the instructor's office
hours, the lab, additional resources for students, information on the web, etc.
- The topics will become second nature if you take the time to understand why
it is what it is, and then use it by doing lots of problems.
- Study with the goal of understanding "why" instead of just trying rote memorization.
- Make sure to present your work clearly.