Help me arm myself for a future-determining showdown with calculus.
Hi all. I'm not sure how it all happened, but I've suddenly gotten myself into a weird situation involving math. Someday I'll be telling this story to grumpy teenagers groaning over their quadratic formulas or whatever, as a parable in why you should be grateful for being forced to learn math long before you have any use for it.
I was recently admitted to an unambiguously top graduate program, which has been an amazing thrill that I've fantasized about for months. My admission comes with one small caveat: I have to take a Calculus I course during a 5-week-long summer session and make a B- or better. I'm ready to accept their offer, which I imagine will then make me (morally? legally? both?) obligated to decline any other offers I may receive. Then, the only thing standing between me and attending this completely awesome program will be learning intro calculus in an outrageous 5-week doom-gauntlet of madness ... if I fail, or, I dunno, my car breaks down on the way to an exam, my admission will be rescinded and I'll be left with nothing. TRYING NOT TO THINK ABOUT THAT.
Here's the thing though. As you can see, the stakes are comically high, and I haven't studied math since high school, which was almost 10 years ago (?!). At that time, I took AP Calculus and worked myself to the bone for barely a B, electing not to take the AP exam because I didn't need the credit for my intended major of neo-Marxist cat husbandry and figured I'd bomb it anyway.
It's the same story of math trauma many of us are familiar with. Even though a B is all right, I still occasionally have actual nightmares about my high-school Calc class, like, at night, while sleeping, 10 years later. And back then, the foundational knowledge of algebra was fresh in my mind. On the potential pep-talk side, I did recently take a graduate-level statistics class, in which I got a 99 through sheer Cossack juggernaut pure nitro heck force. But, my mental repository of unexamined folktales about math tells me calculus involves some actual critical thinking, whereas my stats course fell heavily on the side of being told to plug stuff into one of several mostly opaque formulas.
So tell me ... how can I prepare myself to take on this 5-week calculus beast? There'll probably be an exam every week. I've forgotten all my algebra and trig. I have over 3 months until the madness begins. I know about Khan Academy
, I know about Purplemath
, but between algebra, trigonometry, "precalculus", and calculus proper, I hardly know what to study. And, I feel like a book or two made of actual paper might be superior to watching videos online. I dunno, there must be million resources for this, and I need some recommendations on the best ones and what the top priorities are for review. Right now, all I got is an algebra book from Bob Jones University that says, "Inequality is a quality of the devil" (seriously).
Also, there's a small possibility I may be allowed to take this class the first semester of my graduate studies. Is this a better or worse idea than doing it in a 5-week blitz? I could definitely see it going either way.
Thanks for your help and tell your children to F.O.I.L. those trinomials before the trinomials foil them.