Advice for Beginning Calculus
This is some advice provided by Calculus students I have had, at the
end of the semester, for future beginning calculus students.
For Calculus I, the requirement should be a strong background in
mathematics. This course requires that you study about ten to fifteen hours
a week outside of class. Work ahead of the professor's lecture and always
read the section before you go to class. Never give up, and always try your
Make sure that you're in the right class (don't get stuck in the wrong
Be prepared!† Calculus is a tough
course and it helps to have a strong background in precalculus algebra and
trigonometry.† Be sure to really
know those trig functions.
During class, view the examples seriously, and copy them quickly in
Read the section before coming to class, it would help a lot. Ask lots
of questions in class.
Go to each and every class. If you don't understand something, try
reading the book. Learn how to write good notes.
Do not depend on your instructor to teach you everything.
Be prepared for class:† read over
the section an attempt to work a couple of problems before you go to class
... review your notes after class, and donít put off doing homework.
Ask questions.† Go to the
mathematics [tutorial lab].
Time & Energy
This is a very difficult and time-consuming course. Expect a lot of time
to be spend on homework assignment, and take advantage of office hours.
Attend classes: every lecture helps.
The biggest piece of advice I can give future calculus students is to
make sure that their schedules permit them a sufficient amount of time every
week to study and do homework. By this I mean at least eight to ten hours.
This was something I didn't do and I got really overtired and stressed
because of it.
During the semester you take Calculus I, take a lighter workload than
usual:† no more than 12-14 credits.
You must be able to commit most of your time to this class.
The best advice I can give to future calculus students is to get ahead
in their work. By getting ahead, they will be prepared in class to ask
questions about the homework or about information in general. Any concepts
that aren't understood can be explained further in class: you don't want to
find at 10 pm the night before the test that there's a concept that you
Do NOT procrastinate! I would recommend doing homework early and have as
much time as possible to do it.
Donít wait until the night before itís due to do the homework:† do it the day of the lecture or the next
day, when the material is still fresh.
Don't wait until the last minute to do homework: putting it off to the
night before is not cool! And don't put it off because you don't understand
it! Don't be afraid to ask questions either! Study groups kind of help but
be prepared to do more socializing than studying!
Be prepared to spend a lot of time on homework. Be ready to not just do
the homework for a grade, but to completely understand it. The tutor labs
are extremely helpful, and form study groups. And don't stress out.
Calculus I is definitely a very challenging course and there are times you
feel discouraged and let down ... In order to succeed in this course,
practice, practice, practice.
Do as many practice problems as humanly possible. The practice problems
really helped me.
Draw pictures even if you don't know how the graph will look or if it is
not required: it may keep you from making silly mistakes!
Be prepared to spend many hours trying to understand what in the world
calculus is all about. ... luckily, it kind of comes together at the end of
Practice and working out problems is the key to passing the class.† Do all the homework to the best of your
ability, read through all the chapters, and ask for all the help you can
Read the book!† Do all the
problems in the chapter, not just the assigned ones.
Donít slack off because if you get behind, it will be hard to get caught
up again and you will be confused.
Keep on trying with hard problems:†
the answer will come sooner or later.
The best way to learn is to teach someone else, or say it aloud to
yourself (when no one is looking).†
At a minimum I would do 15 hours of classwork outside of the
classroom each week [this for a 4-hour calculus course].
Take advantage of the homework and read the sections of the book that
the professor goes over.† Reading
the sections, doing the examples, and then doing the homework really helps
you on the test.
Do every odd-numbered problem in each section, and check your
answers.† Focus on the problems you
missed, and work on them to get the right answer. †The more problems you practice, the more
you will recognize patterns, and the tests will be simple for you.† Think of mathematics as a foreign
language:† the more you immerse
yourself in it, the more natural it will become.
Do any extra credit that is offered.
Do the homework for each section the night that you go over it.† Waiting until youíve covered something
else will only confuse you.
Do not allow yourself to become calculator-dependent during your
Do at least an hour of homework every night of studying;† spend time on what you donít know and
make sure you learn it before the class meets next or else you are left
behind.† It is better to be ahead
than to play catch-up during finals week.
Learn the unit circle [this for precalculus trigonometry].
I think it is good to find people you can trust and rely on as good
friends and study partners. Being in a group makes studying easier and more
Don't give up. Eventually the answers will come to you, and if not,
don't be afraid to ask. The tutor lab is great and they're very helpful.
Students should also form study groups and meet with them on a regular
basis. AND DON'T STRESS OUT.
Keep up on the homework: do not let yourself go behind. If you get confused
by something, get help then: don't wait until the exam to learn what
you did not understand. There is tutoring help for a reason. Do not feel
stupid going to it. If you do not go there, get help from the teacher, a
fellow classmate, or a friend. DO NOT GIVE UP!
When a problem or question arises, it is always helpful to go to the
professor for extra help. The professor is usually willing to help and
explains methods to obtain a better understanding. Review notes before
after they are fiven in class. Always do your homework so you will know
what each section is about for the test, and do practice problems within
the sections to help review for the exam. Also, don't procrastinate and put
studying off: always stay on top of things. Another piece of advice is to
partner up with a few people in class to study with and go over homework
because two or three heads is better than one.
Get additional help:† itís free!† Go to math lab or (at USF) get an
assigned tutor at Argos.
Relax before a text and give it all you've got.
Start studying for the exams early. Do good on the beginning chapters:
the chapters become harder and harder, so itís best if you ace your exams
in the beginning. It's not like high school: you can't just study
the night before and ace the test.
Remain focused no matter what do you or what grade you get. College is
tough: you may hit a few bumps on the road, but keep trucking.
Get enough sleep before the test, and always take advantage of
the full time period allotted for the test.
Sleep well before tests, even more than eight hours if you can, and eat
within three hours before the test.
The more and closer to the test you cram, the worse your grades
Start studying for tests at least three or four days before the actual
test.† Donít cram!
Always do the review problems in the back of the sections before
quizzes.† They help a lot!† So do note cards with the formulas:† they come in handy while doing homework