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Failing Calculus

celebrian25celebrian25 Posts: 15,373Registered User Senior Member
edited March 2006 in Parents Forum
I'm really in a hole now. Let's say calculus and me haven't been the best of friends. 1st nine weeks I had a D (66%) and I'm failing now (39%). I've studied with friends, done homework, spent 2 hours a day studying, went to the math lab, where students can get help for math, stayed after school with my teacher, studied from a prep book. You get the picture. Nothing has helped. I've passed tops 2 test the entire year. One with a 77% and one with a low D. So I have a lot of issues:

1.It's a 2 semester class and right now the undue stress it causes me is enormous, and I think that just dropping the 2nd semester will tremendously boost my gpa. I can either have no math or retake the 2nd half of pre-calc. I just don't know what to do at this point.

2. I really don't like my teacher's teaching style, but I switch teachers 2nd semester and part of me wants to wait until I take the first test to see if I should really make such a drastic choice.

3.I'm starting to wonder if the pressure it puts on me is worth it. It makes me feel very stupid, and stressed, and I've cried plenty of tears of it. I'm tired of fighting a battle I can't win

4.I have to change my major. I was planning on going into the sciences which is a lost dream now. I'm not good at anything though. I have no talents or abilities or special skills and languages are the only thing besides science I'm good at at all.

Your advice would be appreciated.
Post edited by celebrian25 on
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Replies to: Failing Calculus

  • MombotMombot Posts: 940Registered User Member
    Is this the first time you've hit a concrete wall academically? Is this your first real academic failure?
  • celebrian25celebrian25 Posts: 15,373Registered User Senior Member
    Yep. Well I've gotten a D+ on an exam before, but never test after test after test after test of failing. I struggled through some of algebra 2, but a lot of that was because of not doing homework but I rectified all that in precalc and I got an A in the course. My parents also seperated when I was taking algebra 2, so I was slightly depressed for a while and stopped caring, but this is the first time I've done everything I can do and it still doesn't work out.
  • lamomlamom Posts: 1,187Registered User Senior Member
    Don't give up on the dream. Guess what class I liked least? Chemistry-you don't have to like something to do it. Pharmacy school is almost all chemistry. You have lots of time to decide on your life goals, don't stress out. You have talent and skills, continue to develop them.

    Do I remember correctly that you have been accepted at some colleges? I would consider the drop if you are certain it won't hurt you. A new start might be just what you need. Things will work out-promise.
  • BassDadBassDad Posts: 5,381Registered User Senior Member
    Celebrian,

    While many science programs in college want you to take at least a semester of calculus, realize that many fields of science do not require an intimate knowledge of that branch of mathematics. Before scrapping your science plans entirely, check the curriculum requirements carefully at the colleges to which you have applied. Perhaps you can take statistics instead of calculus to satisfy the math requirement at some of them. For some branches of science, that would be a much more valuable course anyway.
  • reasonabledadreasonabledad Posts: 885Registered User Member
    Definitely do not give up your dreams over one failed class experience! Based on what you've written, I would stop, and not take the 2nd semester. Take a pause to assess why you are not succeeding. In my opinion (which is worth what you pay for it), the kind of problem you are describing in Calc generally means one of two situations is going on: either you are not putting in the work (which doesn't seem to apply at all) or you are missing the teaching element which connects the hundreds of little tricks and techniques of Calc into a unified whole.

    I'm guessing that your learning style does not match your teacher's instruction style at all. In your place I wold drop the class at the semester, and then try to teach myself (outside of class) one piece of the material you just stumbled through so thoroughly that I could do it in my sleep. This will help balance your sense of failure with some success, give you a sense of what is needed for you to learn the rest of the material, and perhaps teach you something about your learning style.

    But do not give up on your dream of a science education.

    What school and major were you aiming at outside of this Calc problem?
  • Faline2Faline2 Posts: 3,866Registered User Senior Member
    hang in there celebrian..get some advice from a trusted Guidance person or from your math teacher. Dropping the course doesn't mean you are a quitter or that you don't work hard. You are 17? Brain development is still happening...be glad of that, mine is in decline. Maybe the college you choose will offer a math curriculum that you can do just fine in at 19 or 20. Keep all options open. Maybe MIT is out..that leaves many excellent colleges that would love to have you. I wish college applications didn't sort of imply that one has to be evolved so fast and early when the opposite is true. You are in flux, incomplete and in the game of life. Enjoy and appreciate this time in life and believe in yourself and your future. You have years more to shape it. You have a good work ethic and maturity will get you through all these seemingly closing doors and open new ones for you. Stay fresh, Stay open. Be deterred briefly but not discouraged. Many great people hit walls..most people hit walls.
  • lkf725lkf725 Posts: 4,781Registered User Senior Member
    I made it through pharmacy school, but hated math. Always have. But I made it through calculus. Maybe you just have a teacher who doesn't teach in a way that makes sense to you. You should probably get a regular tutor as you may not have a good grasp of concepts. I do agree that you might wait to meet the new teacher...maybe even meet with him/her before the class begins. You can still study science in spite of this little bump in the road.
  • mootmommootmom Posts: 4,162Registered User Senior Member
    Agreeing with the advice you've gotten so far, I'd just add that before you drop the second semester, I think it's appropriate to contact the admissions office of any school that has already accepted you and inquire whether this will pose any problem for your acceptance. And if you're thinking seriously of attending any of the other schools you've applied to over the ones where you've already been accepted, you may want to ask them the same question, hypothetically. Just to be sure. It will matter to some admissions departments, and not to others.

    Good luck with this challenge; it sounds as if you've worked very hard to try to meet it. What persistence you have!
  • 1Down2togo1Down2togo Posts: 481Registered User Member
    You said you switch teachers at 2nd semester? How long do you have to drop a class once the semester has started? At our school, the kids have until the first quarter marking period -- I think it's 6 weeks. Are you hopelessly behind or are you kind of hanging in there and then bombing tests? If you are not hopelessly behind, maybe a new teacher could make a big difference. If you can drop after being in the class for a few weeks, I would ask to meet with the new teacher prior to the beginning of the semester, lay your dilemma out before him/her, and ask for advice. Perhaps a diagnostic test to see where you stand? I wouldn't give up on college dreams over this, and I wouldn't give up on calculus just yet until I knew if a different teacher would make a difference. If you can make it through the year, you'll end up repeating it in college anyway because you won't want to move on on such shaky ground, but you'll have an advantage for awhile because it will be your second time around.
  • itstoomuchitstoomuch Posts: 1,745. Senior Member
    Sometimes you looking at the trees rather than the forest. Discover the forest first, then discern the trees.

    Arithmetic is about how much money you have, length, width, (x.y). circles, rectangles, triangles. This mathematics works well when you need to COUNT things, build pyramids. great walls, arks, and coliseums.
    Algebra is finding unknowns using arithemic. The concept of "speed" is not necessary because the fastest speed was the horse and "time" was not exactly well measured in cloudy days.

    Calculus (Newton, circa 1630) came about because of "time." Accurate clocks are now in general use. If you are on a ship going 5 knots/hour (velocity) and you travel 2 hours (time), then you traveled 10nautical miles, simple algebra. But what happens when the velocity changes such as throwing an apple in the air: You start with 0 velocity1 (apple in hand), increase velocity (acceleration) by moving arm up, As you let go of the apple on the upswing, the apple is no longer accelerating but is now at "terminal Velocity." From this "time" of letting go of the apple, the apple in its rise is "slowing down or decelerating" until it reaches its peak of the throw or until 0 velocity2. How high that apple will go up is dependent on many things: your "force" of throw, the "mass" of the apple, and "gravity" Calculus is simply a way to describe this "change" of acceleration. Newton was pretty lazy, he didn't throw up the apple, the apple fell down to him. Calculus works well when things are constantly changing such as: how much money you will owe if you don't make the credit card payment.

    Einstein took the work of previous people and said that distance for the apple to drop ( 3 dimensions length, width, and depth, of the ancient mathematicians) and Time (4th dimension) is "relative" depending if you are standing on the apple or watching it fall.

    Disclaimer: This is my thinking and is the way I rationalize math.
  • zpmqxonwzpmqxonw Posts: 1,052Registered User Senior Member
    I know exactly how you're feeling! I took Calc 1 last quarter and spent SO much time on homework, at least 15-20 hours a week. I found some really good notes online and they helped a little (http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu) but at the end of the quarter I ended up with a C+ :(

    Is it possible to retake Calc 1 at a local college? I decided to retake Calc 1 this quarter and I can honestly say it's the best choice I've ever made. I have 11 other students in my class and the teacher is fantastic. The way he explains things, the way he makes Calculus fun and intersting I love the class. He's mid-twenties and really enthusiastic about the subject. The two hours passes by so fast in that class I secretly wish it was longer. He's taken a subject I used to hate with a passion and made me crave Calculus. It's really so much easier the second time. I do all the homework that he assigns, and it all makes so much more sense. I'd definitely recommend looking into a local college.
  • dmd77dmd77 Posts: 7,709Registered User Senior Member
    Celebrian, many many people struggle with calculus. My advice would be to hang in there--it sounds to me like you're probably getting a C, which is a shame but not the end of the world, no matter what people say, and plan to retake calculus next year. For many people, it's a gotta-see-it-twice thing to understand calculus. (Half the people who take it flunk differential equations the first time they take it. The pass rate is much higher the second time. I don't have the stats for calculus, but I expect it's similar.)

    Consider buying this book: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/096216741X/ref=pd_sim_b_1/002-2168086-3875200?%5Fencoding=UTF8&v=glance&n=283155
    which I found clarifed many aspects of calculus. (I bought it for my son a while back--and ended up reading it myself.)

    Besides, you can't give up on science just because of one stupid math course. Whole areas of science never use anything more complex than algebra. If you'd said statistics made no sense, I'd worry a lot more.

    You also might want to see if you can find a really good tutor, preferably some old retired calculus teacher who's seen and taught it all.
  • cangelcangel Posts: 4,127Registered User Senior Member
    Celebrian - calculus, ha! At my children's HS, which is a private, college prep high school, where 99% of the students of the students go to college, the vast majority to a 4 year college - the math department actively discourages kids from taking calculus. They believe firmly that the majority of their students are not mentally and developmentally ready to take algebra and geometry early enough to reach calculus by senior year. I don't want to hijack your thread into an argument.
    These teachers would say you are perfectly normal, that you went too far too fast, and it has nothing to do with your fitness to have a math or science career. I don't know what they would say about your situation - drop or not. I think that what ever you do, don't completely drop math for 6-8 months until you begin college - that will be detrimental to going into science, because you will eventually (probably) need calculus, so you should have continuous prep. If other options won't work look at aleks.com - this has helped my son improve his algebra skills, I think it goes to pre-cal - it is not terribly expensive, and you can do it whenever, wherever.

    As for science and math, there are many, honestly most, science careers that do not involve daily, active use of calculus. In fact, of all the college-educated persons I know who were science/math majors (remember I'm a doctor) I only know 2 who actively use calculus ongoing - both are high school teachers!
    ADded - And I believe that the one engineer I know who does real problem solving and uses basic design/mech/electrical priniciples, and is one of the smartest people I know, told me once when we were discussing this very thing, that he didn't think you needed calculus in high school to be an engineer, and while he often had to recognize situations where calculus need to be applied, actually doing the calculations was what computers were for!
  • ADadADad Posts: 4,920Registered User Senior Member
    "I have to change my major. I was planning on going into the sciences which is a lost dream now. I'm not good at anything though. I have no talents or abilities or special skills and languages are the only thing besides science I'm good at at all."

    I agree with the others that you should not give up on your dream of science just because of this one class. You've demonstrated in the past that you can succeed in math and I feel confident that you can again. However you decide to deal with this short-run problem, keep that in mind for the long run.

    It made me sad to read your comment that you have "no talents or special skills". IMO you are offering a mistaken view of what success requires. Sure, it is wonderful to be born with a world-class talent. But most people, the vast, vast, vast, majority, aren't. Yet people do nevertheless find their places in the world.

    My advice for a career is to pursue what you love. If you do what you love, you will get better at it, and you will find your niche in that field. Persistent, daily work in a field you love leads to success.

    If you love science, go for it. Go for whatever you love, and know in your heart that you are good enough to be successful in that field. I, for one, believe with all my heart that you ARE good enough.
  • emeraldkity4emeraldkity4 Posts: 33,218Registered User Senior Member
    my daughter a senior at reed college majoring in biology didn't even take calculus in high school
    she has a learning difference that impacts her math performance but she loves science
    she did take pre calc in 11th gd but only took one semester of stats in 12th.
    Then she took a year off- to volunteer full time- and entered Reed , because of her learning difference- and the heavy work load @ Reed, her advisor recommended that she not take math right off.
    so the summer after freshman year, she retook precalc since it had been so long, at a community college and took calc sophmore year.
    So don't get discouraged-she was eventually able to learn the amount of math that her classes require ( including ochem) with the help of a tutor
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