Tips for a successful Calculus Course

Preceptor group at Harvard
Don't fall behind. Many students, particularly those with prior experience in Calculus, start the semester slowly and never make the transition to College work.
Make use of available resources. Attend your Professor's office hours. Do not feel as though you are infringing on your Professor's time by attending office hours, it is part of their job description. It helps to have a concise list of questions ready to ask. The Math Question Center is located in Loker Commons and meets Sunday through Thursday evenings from 8 to 10pm. Coincidentally, Freshman Snack is scheduled in Loker Commons at 10pm on those days. Form Study Groups of two to four people early in the semester. Meet at convenient times to discuss your homework, and then go home to do the write-ups by yourself.
Devote at least two hours of work outside the classroom for each hour in the classroom. A person taking 15 credit hours is then "working" 45 hours per week.
Read your math book. Read the section to be covered in class lightly the night before class. After class read the section carefully two more times. This will reduce your dependence on class notes, which can often get in the way of listening and actively learning. Think of your textbook as an expensive set of tailor-made notes. Highlighting a math textbook these days is rarely necessary, as publishing companies have used computer graphics programs to do this for you.
Manage your classroom time. Class time is for exchanging ideas. Balance your listening, thinking, questioning and note taking. Never be afraid to ask a question in class, if you are genuinely perplexed perhaps others are as well.
Make your homework write-ups neat and legible , using complete sentences and showing all crucial algebra steps. Remember that every equation is a sentence. The solutions provided in the back of the book or in manuals are often lacking in detail and should not serve as a model for your work.
When preparing for exams, rework the homework problems out of sequence. It is helpful to compile 3x5 index cards with problems and answers on opposite sides. Draw the cards randomly so that you must identify the proper technique or concept. Look in the textbook or ask your Professor for supplemental problems.
Work for a deeper understanding of Calculus. Topics will now be presented from visual, symbolic, numeric and linguistic perspectives. It is important to master these perspectives, and their relationship to one another. Problems and projects may be assigned which are open-ended. Don't mistake "open-ended" for "vague". Open-ended means that there are many methods and acceptable solutions, while vague means that one cannot delineate between the possible methods and solutions. Seldom in life do mathematics problems present themselves in neat, tidy packages. We should prepare for this eventuality.

External web links to this topic

Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning
Passing your Math class - The advise Writing for a Math class
Learning calculus How to succeed in Calculus
How to succeed in Calculus at Georgia Tech Study Guide by M.J. Saltzman (Pdf Document)


Posted, August 8/2000