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Seriously struggling in precalculus

JaycesonnJaycesonn 2 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
I have been having a seriously difficult time in precalculus. I failed this class last semester, I thought it was just the teacher so I retook it. This time, I'm having the same difficulties as I did last time. I pay attention during the lectures, I take notes, I even go to tutoring, but when it's time to actually work something out, I just can't. I freeze at the first step and realize I have no idea what I'm doing. Often times I understand what I need to do, but I just cannot do it myself when I need to.

What is happening? Is there anything I can do to fix this?

This is my first post here, so I'm sorry if I broke any rules.
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Replies to: Seriously struggling in precalculus

  • SuperGeo5999SuperGeo5999 646 replies42 threadsRegistered User Member
    Maybe it's anxiety that is a part of the problem. Find a way to not let anxiety stop you. Can you withdrawl so it doesn't affect your GPA? If you are on any financial aid check with them before withdrawaling.
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  • bopperbopper 14012 replies100 threadsForum Champion CWRU Forum Champion
    My general ideas on those who struggle:


    How have you done in math classes previous to this?
    Who is tutoring you?
    Have you considered going to a more professional tutoring like Huntington or the like?

    Do you have anxiety about math? or in general?

    Do you have problems with "word problems" or other types of problems?

    In my physics class I had a teacher that would make us approach problems in the same way.
    1) Given -
    2) Find
    3) Solution

    Here is an example:
    https://www.claytonschools.net/cms/lib/MO01000419/Centricity/Domain/266/AP Physics Files/01 - AP Introduction/Problem Solving Format – AP Physics.pdf

    Is that something that would help you?

    Can you also learn to identify the solution types that there might be?
    How you would identify that you should use a graph to solve an issue?
    How would you know you need a derivative?
    How would you know you need a matrix?

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  • JaycesonnJaycesonn 2 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    Thank you guys for your input. I have never really had anxiety about math until this class. In hs I finished dual enrollment calculus 1 with an A (the credit only transferred as math 125 so I had to go back to precalc), so I don't think it's the content causing it.

    If I could withdraw I would, but it's required for my major.

    That problem solving method is actually pretty helpful, bopper, thank you! I'll try that; hopefully it helps slow me down and forces me to think through it.

    I think the problem is that I don't understand the steps to get to the solution.

    To help clarify, I'll use an example. Say they want the value of cos^-1((2pi)/3). I know that I need to use the unit circle (or angles) but the logic falls apart when I try to figure out where (2pi)/3 is. Assuming I figure that out, the problem then is what cosine of that is, and finally how to get the inverse of it.

    Even if I get the steps right, I usually have no idea how to go through them.
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  • bopperbopper 14012 replies100 threadsForum Champion CWRU Forum Champion
    @Jaycesonn some of that might mean that you need to understand what a cosine really is and how to visualize it.
    What does the inverse mean?
    You seem like you are trying to brute force the equations without really understanding how the concepts work.

    Consider googling cosines and looking at videos like on Khan Academy. See different way that people present the material.
    Try doing extra problems so you can get practice.
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  • GoatGirl19GoatGirl19 308 replies5 threadsRegistered User Member
    Seconding the suggestion from @bopper about Khan Academy. They have videos going up through multivariable calculus and they really helped when I had a frustrating professor my freshman year. Especially when it comes to using the unit circle, if you are in computer science/engineering/math it really helps to fully understand it because it comes in useful later!

    There are also books and books of worked example problems because these are the sorts of problems that also come up in the math portion of the GRE occasionally. Poke around Amazon for practice books.
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  • yucca10yucca10 1241 replies37 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Inverse cosine is an inverse function of cosine, that is, a number whose cosine is your given number. You don't need to find a cosine to find an inverse cosine.
    Based on this example, I'd say you have to make sure you understand the basic ideas, not just try to memorize how to solve problems. I suggest working with a private tutor who will identify the gaps in your understanding and help you to take care of them.
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  • SuperGeo5999SuperGeo5999 646 replies42 threadsRegistered User Member
    I like the idea of understanding concepts before doing the equations because that's probably the mistake I have made in math a lot.

    What is your major? Do you need to take calculus or several semesters of it?
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  • JaycesonnJaycesonn 2 replies1 threadsRegistered User New Member
    I'm a computer science major, but I'm not sure how much calculus I will need for it.

    In the last couple of days I have done a bit of practice and I spoke to my professor. I think I understand what I'm doing now but I'm still mixing up some concepts, such as the values of the unit circle. Is there a mnemonic or something to help remember the sin, cos, and period that corresponds to each angle?
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