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Tips for Calculus in METU NCC

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A picture of a calculus lecture going on.
METUans attending one of the Calculus lectures on campus.

You, the reader, may be curious about this topic: whether it may be because you are about to enter university, are currently facing difficulty dealing with these courses, or are just curious of what there is to say on the topic at hand. Many new students arrive at METU NCC with high hopes of what they can achieve. However, as an engineering student, I’ve noticed that the calculus courses tend to stunt students in the first two semesters. I shall explain the issues that students tend to face, how to address those issues, and a couple of really good sources students can make use of. I’ve tried to make this blog as simple, yet as descriptive as possible in hopes that people will face far less difficulty in such essential courses.

The Issues

If we really want to solve the issues at hand, then the first step is recognizing what the setbacks are. I’ve put some thought into this and have decided to displace the issues into two categories: experience and health.

Experience

A concept image of basic maths we learn and store in our head and is fundamental to our understanding of calculus later when at uni.

I think we can all agree that the experience that we build during our teenage years are fundamental. This can be quite apparent when we take into account the fact that the habits we pick up during this period are very hard to change. And, to expect immediate change is simply foolish and inhumane. After all, we humans are creatures of habit. This includes both academic and social experiences. This blog will focus solely on the academic aspect. When discussing health, the social part can be delved into very deeply. For more, check out one of my previous blogs here.

Precalculus

One of the biggest questions that students face during their first year of studying here is whether or not to take the precalculus course. Although I have chosen not to take the precalculus course, I could easily see why many choose to undergo the extra effort. This usually arises from the student’s fear of performing poorly in both calculus courses, whether it may be due to the fact that they are both five credit courses or, due to lack of faith in their background in fundamental mathematics- and understandably so.

Riddle Me This

So, if we want to answer the question of whether or not you should partake in this course, you shouldn’t riddle yourself with self-doubt and anxiety. Instead, you should focus on whether or not you know what you are signing up for. From my personal experience, I can easily attest to the fact that it is highly preferable to skip precalculus as its credits are excluded upon completion of the calculus courses and you’d be easing up your third semester. As for the latter, this is because most engineering departments tend to delve into their departmental courses at that stage.

With that said, do you really need to take this course? Or can you simply revise when studying calculus? In my experience, if you are more than capable of solving the basic questions of the first chapter from “Calculus: Early Transcendentals”, then you should be able to go on without much of a problem. This is because the first chapter is essentially a revision in precalculus. Another thing to note is that this is an excellent way of preparing for the precalculus exemption exam early on.

Studying

When studying, you’ll notice that studying as if you were in high school simply doesn’t cut it. If you’d like tips on how to study more efficiently, then my dear friend- Reem-  has already covered this topic in detail in her own blog over here. However, if we were to specify a strategy for mathematics, I would simply advise you to forget how you study in high school. That was a very different realm from the one you are at now.

If I were to make this as simple as possible, the expectations built upon the student are far higher in college than in school. You are expected to understand very very dense material in a matter of only two semesters. What do I mean by dense material?

Well, there are multiple issues I noticed when studying calculus. For one, it is spread into two courses rather than three. In case you didn’t know, most universities cover calculus throughout three semesters rather than two. This means that the professors have a much larger course-load to deal with: making it very difficult to teach the students without rushing.

Exhaustion and over-studying are common symptoms of improper comprehension of what is required of the student to understand

Another cost of shortening the period of the course material is the skipping of some essential chapters, including chapters 8, 9, 10, and 17. Chapters 8-10 prove to be essential when dealing with the second calculus course as it contains much of the theory and problems required of the student to properly analyze the question at hand. In other words, it is far easier to visualize the second calculus course with a good background in these topics. Unfortunately, the student is expected to understand these chapters on his/ her own as they come across further chapters.

Dos & Don’ts

There seems to be a very common trend of repeating the same mistakes of previous students. This should seem apparent to many as a very big setback to the progress of students. In my personal experience, I prefer to familiarize myself with the material at hand in two stages: a very theoretical manner to understand what I’m doing, then read as many past exams as possible.

Theory

In this stage, it is of upmost necessity to be creative and open-minded. Otherwise, you will fail to properly burn the ideas into your head comfortably. There are many things to study and many people to reach out to. In terms of efficient study material on an independent level, I think the sources below prove to be quite sufficient, as they are notorious for their efficiency. The book is also very helpful as it gives a lot of really nice examples and tough questions to solve. And, although they aren’t usually exam quality, they will most certainly help you gain a better understanding.

When it comes to reaching out to others, there are many people more than capable of helping you. You can always ask the professor kindly after class if he is free during office hours. The professor should be – for very obvious reasons- the most reliable source for you to lean on.

Then you have other students. For this, you have four wonderful options: SI-PASS, recitation classes, math help room, and peers.

SI-PASS & Recitation Sessions

SI-PASS is essentially a tutoring session for free from seniors that passed the course excellently. They are also trained by the professors to present the material in a student-friendly manner. For more information on the SI-PASS lectures, please click here. Similar to SI-PASS, the recitation leaders are also students who are more than qualified to teach students. The only difference is that they are students doing their Master’s Degree, not Bachelors. Both of these sessions attempt to help the student from a very similar view, that of a student who underwent the same difficulties. They may also cover some of the material that the professor may fail to cover due to the extremely constricted and short time given.

Math Help Room

In regards to the math help room, it is very similar to the office hours, only it consists of the recitation leaders and the instructor Yakut Dosieva. For more information, please click here. To get help, make sure that you’ve booked a meeting beforehand with one of the members, as many students love to receive help from there.

Study Partners

When it comes to peers, it can be unprofessional at times. But so what? We are here to learn together. Not everyone is a stoic man who is capable of doing his work separate from his emotions. Besides, this creates a strong bonding as well as a fun way to learn the subject. Imagine one of your friends cracking a joke while you are having difficulty with a particular topic. You might remember that question when you are at the exam because of that joke.

A Common Blunder

The most common mistake I find from many of my peers (and perhaps many of my seniors) is a failure to complete the first stage. This may be due to procrastination, stress, or something else. Whatever the reason may be, it may harm this essential period. Although achieving a high letter grade in these courses without properly understanding the theory is possible, it isn’t exactly easy nor recommended. Think about it like this: why did you come to university? A very good friend of mine- Mahrukh Khan- has written a blog on that very topic here.

In short, you came here to achieve something. And whatever it may be, calculus is the language and the stepping stool for all engineering departments. If you have developed a weak background in calculus, then you will face some difficulty when trying to learn future courses.

Helpful Sources for Calculus

There is no denying that sometimes, the exposure you get just won’t do. You need that extra something to start that small spark in your brain for you to study properly. So, below are some sources that have proven to be most beneficial and essential based off not only my experience but, also, the majority of my peers. Click on each heading to get a glimpse of what they present.

Professor Leonard

Professor Leonard is famous for his amazing free online lectures that are surprising to everyone’s access. I can most certainly assure you that there is not a single professor that is elaborate as him online for free. Although he isn’t the best when it comes to acing the examinations, it is most certainly a very reliable source to use to properly introduce a student to both the theory and application of what is to come.

3Blue1Brown

Although this source will not help you very much when it comes to solving questions, it does give a beautiful illustration of the realm of mathematics. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer having someone explain the real-world application along with gorgeous designs. And, that is exactly what this YouTube channel does to perfection.

Michael van Biezen

With his short sweet tutorials, you’ll gain a very simple understanding of the concept at hand in just a matter of minutes. It really doesn’t take a genius to figure out the importance of efficiency in one’s studies. If you are looking for someone who gives a very simple introduction along with easy examples to get a grasp of the problems at hand, then this is just the source you need!

Organic Chemistry Tutor

Honestly, I don’t know what I would’ve done without this source. I had a lot of trouble in my first semester with optimization. Although this channel isn’t exactly the best when it comes to theory, it is most certainly perfect for anyone who is looking for many exam-like questions.

Paul’s Notes

For all my friends who prefer reading to listening, you really can’t get any better than this. This is essentially a website from a Professor who wanted to publish his notes online for everyone to analyze. I loved this source because it helped me understand the textbook more than any other online source available out there.

Finally, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to drop them down in the comments and maybe even give some people a few titbits on how you study calculus.

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