How Hard Are Calculus I and II?

If you’re not a math whiz, you are probably dreading college math, and one of the classes your degree might require is Calculus I. Well, if you want that diploma, you’re going to have to grit your teeth and get it over with. But is calculus really all that bad?

With the proper education, commitment, and study skills, calculus can actually be fairly simple. However, if a student’s prior math education was lacking, or if a student tends to be lax in their attendance and their homework completion deadlines, calculus will be difficult.

If you’re still sure calculus is going to be the reason you’ll be pulling all-nighters and chugging energy drinks, keep reading. It might be easier to pass than you think, although any higher-level math class will take some work.

Is Calculus Hard?

Calculus has a bad reputation. You’re not the only one who quakes in their boots at the thought of sitting in class and hearing words like derivative, logarithm, and limits. It will be easy to find students who are intimidated by this subject, but you will also be able to find students who have been able to successfully work their way through the class.

It combines a lot of principles you’ve been learning for years, which can be good or bad.

It’s the Next Step in the Math Journey

So yes, there is a lot of merging of concepts, which can be confusing. But luckily, you’ve been preparing for this moment.

“[Calculus is] what your mathematics education has been building to for quite some time.”

Anonymous Student

Everything you’ve ever learned in a math class up until this point has prepared you to be successful in Calc 1. Think of it this way: your whole life you’ve been finding puzzle pieces and fitting them together. Calculus gives you the chance to see the final image the puzzle makes.

Calculus Is Life

Some students who take calculus might not understand how calculus applies to their life or even their chosen degree. It can certainly be a fast-paced, complex class (especially at first glance).

Most students discovered that when they took calculus, they were actually able to apply what they were learning to real situations. Calculus can be defined as “the math behind physics.”

If you are interested in any field that uses precise math, calculus will become your lifeline. Physics is a common field of study that wouldn’t be possible without a knowledge of calculus.

Physics helps us understand how the world around us works. It gives meaning to life by explaining the everyday phenomenons. And how are these phenomenons explained? Through calculus. Thus, calculus=life. Knowing what calculus is used for can make it easier to understand and apply the things you’re learning.

What Is Calculus?

But what specifically does calculus help us understand about the world around us? We live in a world of motion. Living organisms, wind, cars, trains, planes, and everything around us is constantly moving. Without calculus, we’d only be able to mathematically understand subjects that don’t move.

With the invention of calculus, a new world of possibilities opened up. Now, we can not only study how objects move, but we can study change itself.

Because of this, calculus can be applied in a variety of fields, including:

  • Economics
  • Statistics
  • Computer Science
  • Engineering
  • Medicine
  • Geography

You wouldn’t be able to read this right now without calculus. The computer or phone you’re using was created with calculus. The world runs on change, and since we’ve been able to study that change, we have made huge advancements in technology, medicine, architecture, and so many other fields.

How Can I Be Good at Calculus?

Knowing what calculus is for can at least help you understand why you’re sitting in class, but it might not necessarily make the experience easier for you. Success in calculus takes work and dedication, but it is possible.

Here are some ideas:

Solidify Previous Skills

If you’ve had poor teachers in the past, or if you didn’t put in the necessary work when you were taking high school math classes, calculus is going to be extra tricky. Because calculus is a summation of everything you’ve learned so far, it’s pretty hard if you don’t have a solid background in Algebra and Trigonometry.

If you want to succeed in college calculus, you’ll need to brush up on your math skills in general. If you’re buckling down for calculus next semester, take time now to reteach yourself Algebra and Trig.

These skills are going to be crucial in learning and using calculus, so you’ll want to be familiar with them.

Form Good Study Habits

Anyone can pass any class. You may not get a perfect A, but you can pass. It all comes down to study habits. Are you the student that procrastinates homework assignments until the day before they’re due?

Do you cram right before a test? Do you turn your assignments in late?

If that sounds familiar, you’ll need to change your habits if you want to pass calculus.

One good habit to get into is doing your homework the day it’s assigned, even if your teacher doesn’t grade it right away. These assignments are great practice, and they will do the most to solidify the concepts in your mind.

Another great way to do this is to stay ahead of your teacher. If they are going over chapter six on Wednesday, read through the chapter on Monday. Then Wednesday’s lecture will be like a review for you.

Your university should have math labs/tutors. These provide great opportunities to practice and check your understanding. If you want to feel confident going into a test, go to these labs several days before your exam. This will give your mind time to digest the information and internalize it.

Use Your Resources

You’re not in this alone. Join your classmates to create study groups. This form of study is fantastic because you are all learning the information at the same pace. You can help each other understand the material.

Other resources include online study guides and calculators. The internet has a multitude of resources to help you practice and hone your skills.

You Can Pass

Above all, be patient with yourself. Calculus is difficult. You shouldn’t expect yourself to understand everything on the first try, even if you follow the tips in this article. Calculus isn’t easy, but it isn’t impossible either.

Read Next: Geometry vs. Algebra: Which One Is Harder and Why


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.

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