August 5, 2011 2:32 PM Subscribe

Best way to review college Calculus I & II in as short a time as possible to prove competence in the subject? Any website, book, or methodology recommendations? I need to test out of these courses to make sure I'm not paying for an extra year of school.

I got reasonably advanced in math back in high school (by my senior year I'd taken differential equations at a local university and got an A) but over five years later I'm woefully out of practice. I'm finally finishing my bachelor's and need Calc I & II pre-reqs to continue with my coursework, but because I took it in high school my coursework there doesn't count (though my Diff Eq course transferred over to my current university's Diff Eq course, two levels about Calc II . . . bureaucracy).

If I do well on a Calc II final given to me by the math department I'll be allowed to at least place into Calc III. If I don't, I'm starting again at Calc I. So it's very important that I do well. Does anyone have any suggestions for studying for this?
posted by schroedinger to Education (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

I got reasonably advanced in math back in high school (by my senior year I'd taken differential equations at a local university and got an A) but over five years later I'm woefully out of practice. I'm finally finishing my bachelor's and need Calc I & II pre-reqs to continue with my coursework, but because I took it in high school my coursework there doesn't count (though my Diff Eq course transferred over to my current university's Diff Eq course, two levels about Calc II . . . bureaucracy).

If I do well on a Calc II final given to me by the math department I'll be allowed to at least place into Calc III. If I don't, I'm starting again at Calc I. So it's very important that I do well. Does anyone have any suggestions for studying for this?

If you took this stuff before, just get your hands on any standard textbook and work as many problems as you can to get back into shape. If paying the ridiculous prices for the new editions of texts bothers you, you can probably get an older edition for dirt cheap from whoever's selling them on amazon.

posted by madcaptenor at 2:36 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by madcaptenor at 2:36 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I haven't used it myself, but someone who I consider reasonably trustworthy recently recommended Khan Academy to me for people who wanted calculus review.

posted by craichead at 2:44 PM on August 5, 2011

posted by craichead at 2:44 PM on August 5, 2011

I have to second madcaptenor's comment; I'm doing the exact same thing, but with Algebra instead.

Sometimes you can find math textbooks at Goodwill or Salvation Army, especially the larger ones. On one excursion, I came home with two College Algebra texts and a Calculus text (including the optional Student Answer Key) for less than $20.

The books themselves may be out of date, but the math won't be; my current Algebra textbook features pics of such cutting edge computers as the TRS-80 and a black and white mainframe terminal.

posted by spinifex23 at 2:57 PM on August 5, 2011

Sometimes you can find math textbooks at Goodwill or Salvation Army, especially the larger ones. On one excursion, I came home with two College Algebra texts and a Calculus text (including the optional Student Answer Key) for less than $20.

The books themselves may be out of date, but the math won't be; my current Algebra textbook features pics of such cutting edge computers as the TRS-80 and a black and white mainframe terminal.

posted by spinifex23 at 2:57 PM on August 5, 2011

I like the book 'Forgotten Calculus'

posted by CodeMonkey at 3:27 PM on August 5, 2011

posted by CodeMonkey at 3:27 PM on August 5, 2011

If you have the chance to save *3 freakin' quarters/semesters of math, that you've already taken,* hell, find one of the math department's major graduate student/TAs, hire them as a private tutor at any price they name, *do exactly as they say* and barring a total brainfreeze on your part on test day, Win College!!!

posted by paulsc at 3:36 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by paulsc at 3:36 PM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Khan Academy. I watched those his calculus videos with nothing but pre-calc experience and learned the principles really quickly. I imagine it's even better if you just need to review specific topics. It's broken down into 10 minute bite sized segments.

posted by empath at 4:01 PM on August 5, 2011

posted by empath at 4:01 PM on August 5, 2011

I like Khan Academy, but I'm not sure it's the best for you. It's a very good introduction to basic principles, but it's not very in depth--and if my own experience is anything to go by, basic principles are the *last* thing you forget. What you forget first is the variety of tricks you can use to solve certain types of problems.

In your situation, I would get my hands on an older edition of the calculus textbook that your school uses and do as many problems as I could, and maybe watch Khan Academy videos if I felt unsure about some concept.

posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:58 PM on August 5, 2011

In your situation, I would get my hands on an older edition of the calculus textbook that your school uses and do as many problems as I could, and maybe watch Khan Academy videos if I felt unsure about some concept.

posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:58 PM on August 5, 2011

If you MeMail me, I'll give you the Calculus II final I gave my class in the spring semester.

posted by King Bee at 7:49 PM on August 5, 2011

posted by King Bee at 7:49 PM on August 5, 2011

I can send you a calc I final.

Seconding the "find a book, read it, and do as many problems as you can stand" approach.

I don't know if something like WebAssign or Aleksys has pre-packaged problem sets independent of courses, but that might be something to look in to also.

posted by leahwrenn at 11:29 PM on August 5, 2011

Seconding the "find a book, read it, and do as many problems as you can stand" approach.

I don't know if something like WebAssign or Aleksys has pre-packaged problem sets independent of courses, but that might be something to look in to also.

posted by leahwrenn at 11:29 PM on August 5, 2011

You need to find out what kinds of problems are on that final and study the shit out of them.... same as if you were taking the class. The problem with Calculus exams is that the material really hasn't changed in 200 years, but every year you have to come up with problems to put on an exam. This leads to a sort of Darwinian evolution of exam problems towards some weird corners in the space of problems.

Trying to review calculus as a subject is really going to end up with you wasting a lot of time: taking Calculus exams is kind of totally different from learning Calculus. As someone said above, find someone in the department and see if you can get a copy of an old exam or exam review. Then, study by figuring out those problems, use any book, your old book if you have it (the internet is full of scans of books btw.) But, don't let yourself get into the mindset where you feel like you have to *understand* something to do a problem. You don't, you already understand calculus, you just need to figure out the tricks again.

posted by ennui.bz at 8:08 AM on August 6, 2011

Trying to review calculus as a subject is really going to end up with you wasting a lot of time: taking Calculus exams is kind of totally different from learning Calculus. As someone said above, find someone in the department and see if you can get a copy of an old exam or exam review. Then, study by figuring out those problems, use any book, your old book if you have it (the internet is full of scans of books btw.) But, don't let yourself get into the mindset where you feel like you have to *understand* something to do a problem. You don't, you already understand calculus, you just need to figure out the tricks again.

posted by ennui.bz at 8:08 AM on August 6, 2011

I'm a big fan of Schaum's Outlines for review and cramming.

posted by zippy at 1:05 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by zippy at 1:05 PM on August 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

Old finals for Calculus I, II, and III at Penn.

Note that these courses are officially called "Introduction to Calculus", "Calculus I", and "Calculus II". Don't let that confuse you, although it confuses any number of undergrads who get incorrectly advised to take "Calculus I" but don't know any calculus yet.

posted by madcaptenor at 1:44 PM on August 6, 2011

Note that these courses are officially called "Introduction to Calculus", "Calculus I", and "Calculus II". Don't let that confuse you, although it confuses any number of undergrads who get incorrectly advised to take "Calculus I" but don't know any calculus yet.

posted by madcaptenor at 1:44 PM on August 6, 2011

MIT Open Courseware recently put out 5 courses in an expanded format.

"OCW Scholar courses are designed for independent learners who have few additional resources available to them. The courses are substantially more complete than typical OCW courses and include new custom-created content as well as materials repurposed from MIT classrooms. The materials are also arranged in logical sequences and include multimedia such as video and simulations."

Including Calculus I and Calculus II

One hack you might try is watching the videos at 1.5-2x speed using VLC or another video player that allows you to do this.

posted by screamingnotlaughing at 5:12 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

"OCW Scholar courses are designed for independent learners who have few additional resources available to them. The courses are substantially more complete than typical OCW courses and include new custom-created content as well as materials repurposed from MIT classrooms. The materials are also arranged in logical sequences and include multimedia such as video and simulations."

Including Calculus I and Calculus II

One hack you might try is watching the videos at 1.5-2x speed using VLC or another video player that allows you to do this.

posted by screamingnotlaughing at 5:12 PM on August 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

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posted by SNWidget at 2:34 PM on August 5, 2011