Calculus I

Fall 2006
Some Advice

Here is some additional information and advice that should give you a better idea what to expect from this class, how to enjoy it and do well, and help you decide whether or not this class is for you.
  • This class will probably be large by COA standards. You and I will need to work together creatively to make sure that this classtime is comfortable and effective, and that outside of class people are able to get all the help they need. I have taught this class with more than thirty students and it worked out fine.
  • Falling behind in this course is not a good idea. If you're confused about something, it's very important that you seek help sooner rather than later. There are many people around who can offer help. However, we can't offer assistance if we don't know who needs it when. You need to take responsibility to seek help if you need it. On a related note ...
  • I do not expect all of the homework assignments to be easy; I don't expect you to be able to sit down and do them easily the first time. Don't let yourself get frustrated -- I strongly suggest working with others and seeking help if you need it.
  • In many more traditional math classes the textbook has a ton of examples in them. The book we'll be using doesn't. The result is that students sometimes find the homework to be challenging, frustrating, and occasionally even annoying. However, I'm convinced that this style of homework -- where there's not an example just like the problem you're trying to do -- is much better pedagogically. You'll learn a lot more this way.
  • You will actually need to read the textbook in order to do some of the homework. I won't be able to cover everything in class, and/or you'll just want to see a topic explained in a different way.
  • I very strongly recommend getting your own copy of the textbook. I think you'll learn more if you have your own copy to take notes in and always have with you when you're doing problems.
  • The book, and the course, emphasizes graphical and verbal understanding in addition to being able to work with symbols and numbers. Much of mathematics -- both theory and application -- is graphical or geometrical in nature. The graphical problems are not "lite" problems but are an essential part of the course. The graphical problems are most definitely "real math." Some of you may find graphical work difficult, as it's likely different than some of what you've been asked to do in math classes before.
  • This course covers pretty standard Calc I material. The text book we're using is used at many other colleges and universities in the U.S.
  • This is now my fifth time teaching this class, so I have a fairly good sense of how it will go. In particular, I can state with some confidence that the first two and a half weeks will be the most difficult and potentially frustrating, because we will be reviewing a lot of basic stuff about functions. This part of the course will seem too slow and too fast at the same time.
  • This class is listed as an introductory course. I do not assume that you've had calculus before. If you've had calculus elsewhere, this still might be a good course for you. However, you should check with me to make sure that you don't end up in a course that's a waste of your time. Calculus has a scary reputation, but I don't think it's an intrinsically hard subject. Calculus "makes sense," in that it holds together as a conceptual whole, and doesn't require memorizing lots of seeming unrelated facts.
  • We will make use of the computer program Maple. Maple is extremely powerful and useful; it is commonly used by scientists and mathematicians. I have found that learning to use this program can sometimes be a source of frustration for students. I expect this to be much less the case this year because we have a lab session in which you can get direct instruction in using Maple.
  • This class is a lot of work. However, the workload is steady; you'll be doing approximately the same amount of work each week. We'll hit the ground running and try to get lots of stuff done the next few weeks. The workload will taper off some toward the end of the term.