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Advice for calculus students November 3, 2010

Posted by Sarah in Uncategorized.
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I am now a TA holding office hours for some calculus classes, and I actually enjoy it a lot. I’m generally impressed with the students. General advice that ought to hold if you’re taking an intro calc class:

1. Don’t freak out because a problem is taking a long time and seems unfairly hard. You’ll say “There must be some mistake!” No, there isn’t. This isn’t high school; you’re being taught by professors, who don’t always know how to gauge the right difficulty level. They do tend to underestimate how long it takes to finish your homework. Also, calculus is actually harder than high school math. If you have to go through a lot of computations and false steps — don’t worry! That’s what math is actually like!

2. I do not have magical TA superpowers of Mathematica. Most of the time, if you ask me for help, I’m going to look at the example on your worksheet and look in the help documentation. You could do that too! The xkcd Tech Support Cheat Sheet is relevant here.

3. L’Hopital’s rule is your friend. Seriously. So is big-O notation. These will save your bacon.

4. 90% of mistakes in multivariable calc result from not drawing pictures. Draw a picture. You are never too cool to draw a picture.