Calculus is a very difficult subject and one that a lot of students have trouble with.  Indeed, it is the toughest course at YSU. If it is any consolation, you should remember that, generally, only strong math students take Calculus.  If you weren’t a math whiz you would not have made it this far! So be proud of yourself, and realize that you are not alone.  Mot people find calculus very hard.


One of the reasons why calculus is so difficult arises from a lack of understanding about the nature of the subject.  You probably think that calculus is an end of a sequence of courses in mathematics that you arrive at after passing through algebra, geometry, trigonometry, etc. Unfortunately, this is completely incorrect. Calculus is the beginning of a whole new branch of mathematics and the “right of passage” into many areas of the physical, engineering and social sciences.  You must learn a whole new set of tools, and a whole new approach to problem solving involving multiple steps..  Calculus is going to teach you a new way of thinking and of looking at mathematics and at nature itself. 

In Calculus, you are going to solve multi-faceted problems unlike previous mathematical studies except geometry. The solution of many problems will involve trigonometry, geometry and algebra and calculus. 


The good news about Calculus is that because it is an introductory course, you won’t delve too deeply into any of the topics, but will concentrate on learning numerous techniques.  There’s a lot of recognition required in Calculus, and you’ll be expected to look at a problem or a step in a problem and immediately know which type of problem it is and which method is to be used in the solution. 


The other good news is that although Calculus is taught in many different ways at YSU, the curriculum is standardized, as are the exams; especially, the final exam. You’ll be expected to learn certain things which will appear in my assignments and not expected to learn things which do not appear in my assignments.  Furthermore, the exams tend to ask the things you are asked to learn as opposed to the things that you were not.  Hence, doing homework is essential.


The key to doing well on the exam is to master a variety of techniques for solving calculus problems, and to recognize when to use them. There’s much to learn in calculus that is difficult to remember.  Instead, you should be able to derive how to do certain things based on your mastery of a few essential techniques. In addition, you will be expected to remember a lot of the math that you did before calculus- particular trigonometry.  If you are not strong in this area, take the time to review the appendix.


Finally, calculators have been introduced throughout the high school community as some type remedy for mathematical illiteracy.  This is similar to buying “Ocean front in Arizona”.  A lot of students don’t bother to memorize the trigonometry special angles ( 0,30,45,60,90…) and formulae because they can do them on their calculators. This is a big mistake.  Indeed, it is such a mistake , it is spelled with only  four letters, RONG!  You’ll be expected to be very good with these special angles, and if you can’t recall them easily, you’ll be slowed and the problem that you are working on will seem much more difficult than it is.  Make sure that you’re also comfortable with analytic geometry.  If you rely on your calculators to graph for you, you’ll get a lot of questions wrong because you won’t recognize the curves when you see them.