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If you're going into a field such as business or science, you can bet that you will have to take calculus in some form or another. Even if you took calculus in high school, calculus at IU can be somewhat different. M119 tends to focus much more on applications, many of which are related to business and finance. It can be challenging, but whether you are taking M119 or M211 our tutors can help.

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Calculus observes the rates of change in functions and uses that to make sense of the general trends of graphs. Through differentiation ("taking the derivative"), one can find the instantaneous rate of change of a function at a given x coordinate. Through integration, the process is reversed and rates of change can be used to understand the original function. Differentiation and integration are also useful in understanding compound interest, maximizing profit and minimizing cost, and supply/demand models. In both versions of the course, the student will gain a broad vocabulary of operations that form the basis of calculus.

M119 is a less detail oriented class for those who may not be going into a math oriented major. This class will be good for exposing the student to abstract mathematical models and the associated reasoning that will help improve critical thinking. There is an emphasis on applications, especially in topics related to business, economics, and finance.

M211 is a more in depth class for those who will be using calculus regularly in their field of study. The course includes a surprisingly theoretical approach to the class in which the student learns the postulates behind the mathematics before learning the practical operations. It is especially important to be comfortable with abstract reasoning when taking this course.

Bottom line - don't take M211 unless you really love math, or are required to take it by your major.

As a school that emphasizes a well-rounded education, IU makes it a point to require the overwhelming majority of students to take a math class according to the mathematical modeling gen-ed requirement. Some majors are even required to take both calculus and finite. At the very least, you will have to take at least one semester of math. Because math is such a common gen-ed requirement, you will be in a classroom with over 100 students no matter which section you are enrolled in. This can be very overwhelming at times.

Even if you insist that you hate math, and that you'll never have to use it in real life, it is an important way to develop your ability to reason critically and abstractly. It brings to you a set of knowledge that isn't taken in by your five senses. You have to internalize the concepts being conveyed to you and reason with them in an abstract manner. This is where most of the effort of mathematics takes place and this is what the people who design the courses want you become comfortable with. It's the abstract thinking skill that is important to them and it is a skill that could be important to you if you have aspirations for a creative, highly skilled career.

If you spend time with calculus and put honest effort into it, you can pass. If you are weak in algebra, consider studying some basic concepts on your own. If you're not comfortable on your own, take a class to prepare you. There are free online algebra courses that can be helpful through Coursera that you may consider, or go through the free online videos and lesson plan at the Khan Academy.

It also important to consider which professor you are signing up for. If you have a new professor or one who is just not good at teaching you, it could be the difference between a good grade and a bad grade. It is also important to research how long that professor has been teaching the class and how well your peers liked that teacher's style. But at the same time, take online reviews with a grain of salt - there is a difference between a bad teacher, and a good teacher who gives a student a bad grade. You may also want to get a tutor to help you through problems individually. It is especially important to find a tutor who you feel comfortable with and who is very knowledgeable about the subject. You may find that person within Bloomington Tutors.

Basically, if you want to pass calculus:

  • Find the instructor that fits you the best
  • Do you know your algebra?
  • Remember that you have plenty of resources at your disposal (books, online resources)
  • Do your homework and practice problems outside of the assignments
  • Get a tutor

As long as you are confident in your algebraic skills, then you will have all the background you need to succeed in the class. If you did well in math in high school then you can be confident that you can pass. If you feel weak in math or failed high school algebra, then you may need to think about reviewing those concepts before you go on. At the same time, don't wait too long after algebra to take calculus! Your basic math skills may become rusty if you wait.

That depends on what you define as hard. If you mean the material is abstract and requires much mental energy towards acquiring the material then, yes, this class is difficult. The material requires your attention and a certain amount of dedication. It also depends on your background in mathematics. However, with solid algebra skills, proper studying, and effort you will do well. That's all there is to it.

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Calculus Overview

Part 1: Rates of growth and decay (M119) or Limits (M211), Average Rates of Change

  • In M119, you learn a number of ways to calculate rates of change. In particular, you will learn about compounded rates of growth and exponential growth (continuously compounded functions).
  • M211 deals with limits as an introduction to the concept of differentiation and integration. The student has to find the value of limits as a function approaches a given value for x. L'hopital's rule is learned in this section. M119 does not cover limits.
  • Both classes present the average rate of change function over two points. M211 presents it in terms of limits, while M119 strips it down to a simple equation that can easily convey the meaning.

Part 2: Differentiation

  • Basic concept behind the derivative of a function and for what it can be used
  • Instantaneous Rate of Change
  • Power Rule, Product/Quotient Rule, Chain Rule, and other basic differentiation techniques
  • Meaning of the first derivative and second derivative in relation to a function

Part 3: Integration

  • Integration, the "opposite of differentiation", and its fundamental meaning are learned in the last section of the class.
  • Synthesizing a value of a function using the rate of change (finding f(x) using f'(x))
  • Applications of the integral

Calculus courses we tutor at IU

Brief Precalculus Math
Precalculus Math
Precalculus with Trigonometry
Brief Survey of Calculus 1
Brief Survey of Calculus 2
Calculus 1
Calculus 2
Accelerated Calculus
Calculus 3
Introduction to Calculus with Applications
Calculus 1 (Honors)
Calculus 2 (Honors)
Calculus 3 (Honors)
Brief Calculus
Calculus 1
Calculus 2
Calculus with Analytic Geometry 1
Applied Brief Calculus for the Life Sciences