## Help Me Get My Math Back? 467

Posted
by
kdawson

from the we-can-forget-it-for-you-wholesale dept.

from the we-can-forget-it-for-you-wholesale dept.

nwm writes

*"I am trying to refresh my math skills back to the point that I can take college-level statistics and calculus courses. I took everything through AP calculus in high school, had my butt kicked by college calculus, and dropped out shortly thereafter. Twenty+ years later, I need to take a few math courses to wrap up a degree. I've dug around some and found a few sites with useful information, but I'm hoping the Slashdot crowd can offer some good resources — sites, books, programs, online tutors, etc. I really don't want to have to take a series of algebra-geometry-trig 'pre-college' level courses (each at full cost and each a semester long) just to warm my brain up; I'd much rather find some resources, review, cram, and take the placement test with some confidence. Any suggestions?"*
## If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for you (Score:4, Funny)

They want you to pass calculus for a reason. No matter what kind of scientist you plan to be, your knowledge of calculus will be essential. You'll never use statistics but you will need to use calculus every day.

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Informative)

Hi,

Working scientist here. Ph.D. I've been working 20+ years doing scientific research, getting grants, publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals.

I haven't done ANY calculus since I was an undergrad.

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:4, Funny)

You must be a scientist, because apparently you have no sense of humor.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Funny)

And what field might that be in? Not all fields will have much use for calculus in the real world, but I am still curious.

Ah biology, the humanities of the science world...

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Insightful)

I do a lot of molecular biology. I've never thought of it as like the humanities at all. It's always seemed a lot more like computer programming to me.

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:4, Funny)

I compute derivatives every day. That's why my compute farm draws a couple of megawatts when I want a number.

Glad to hear people are still doing it by hand. Arts and crafts should been encouraged, even in the modern age.

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## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:4, Funny)

Me too. I studied at the University of Manchester University.

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Unfortunately, the problem with economics is that it has TOO MUCH math in it. Or rather, it has too much math misuse.

There should be a large amount of statistics, but little calculus. That's because we're dealing with human beings and their obstinate free will. So much of modern economics is about making assumptions so that you can start applying some math to the problem. But the assumptions are often unwarranted, like micro's assumption of "perfect knowledge" that can only exist in a fantasy land.

Yes, you'

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Insightful)

Parts of biology are getting insanely mathematical. Very recently, say the last five to ten years, there has been a large influx of mathematicians into biology. They use stochastic analysis to model various processes such as transmission of genes to offspring and growth of cell populations.

A decent fraction of the PhD students in my department (maths) are involved in biology.

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

I'm a Computer Scientist/Software Engineer (I dropped out of the research end a few years ago - my current job is R&D in the commercial realm so I'm not sure what to call myself), before that I was a land surveyor. My parents owned that business and I started work there when I was 12 (apparently that is legal for your own kids - they payed me minimum wage so at 12 I was the richest kid in school and was happy :)). As a Computing researcher I can't say I did much calculus at all. Most everything was heav

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:4, Informative)

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Interesting)

Oh bullshit. Those are both overt and ridiculous generalizations. First off, many scientists use statistics every day (at the least, much more than "never"). Second, not all scientists use calculus "every day", and many use it almost never.

As a calculus teacher, I can tell you this: you need skills in symbolic manipulation. Your algebra needs to be rock solid before you attempt college level calculus. In my experience, you need

dozens of hoursof practice before you get it. Buy an algebra textbook, and do every odd problem in every section until you are reliably getting everything right. My experience = flunked high school math and went back to college 10 years later, and am now working towards a PhD in math.## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

I was in the same situation as submitter. In fact, it was the reason why I switched majors from CompSci - being in a hurry to get a degree in a science and too much bullshit math I'd never use. I'll go back for Compsci when I can learn on my own terms, for fun.

However, you were spot-on about this: Calc 1 is 90% algebra(with 20-30% of the problems involving trig)and you're gonna be fucked if you don't have a good grasp of algebraic manipulation. My recommendation to submitter is to take online calculus(whe

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Informative)

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:4, Interesting)

I would mod you up if I had any points. Sad as it may seem calculus was where I *learned* trig. For me, trig is one of those subjects that you beat your head against for months and years and one day *POOF* it makes sense. My first semester of college level calculus was were I learned trig. The second time I took that first semester of calculus - man I got it.

Don't forget to brush up on the basics - algebra, trig, analytical geometry as well as your calculus.

goes looking for an old text book just to tinker around with it.......

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misusestats.## Practice, practice, practice (Score:3, Insightful)

The parent is absolutely right. You need practice. Actually, you need what Anders Ericcson calls 'deliberate practice'. Solve every example in the book as follows:

Write down the problem. Close the book and try to solve the problem. If you got it right, go on to the next problem. If you didn't get it, look at how the example is solved. Close the book and try again until you get it right. Repeat until you have solved every example in the text.

Check out this article: http://www.conestogac.on.ca/~bcoons [conestogac.on.ca]

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

As a calculus teacher, I can tell you this: you need skills in symbolic manipulation. Your algebra needs to be rock solid before you attempt college level calculus. In my experience, you need dozens of hours of practice before you get it. Buy an algebra textbook, and do every odd problem in every section until you are reliably getting everything right.

I couldn't agree more. My better students are invariably the ones who can do basic algebra in their sleep. Those who struggle are those who never learned high school algebra (or god forbid, arithmetic) well.

## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

I suggest Schaum's Outlines myself. Cheap, comprehensive, mostly well-written.

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Insightful)

Really... No business getting a degree in ANYTHING? That's a rather closed and inappropriate (IMO) view. If he's worked in a field for years that doesn't require he use any algebra how's he supposed to keep up with his skills other than doing algebra problems in his spare time? He never indicated the degree he's completing was heavily math-biased or math-dependent. Stats and Calc may be akin to gen-eds.

When you paint such ridiculously broad statements you risk your own image before anyone else's.

Still, if you can't even pass calculus then there's something wrong. And that's not even the problem- he's looking for help

preparing for the placement test. If he's let his skills deteriorate so far that he forgets algebra, then he has no business getting a degree in anything.## Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

It's the same deal as people who say others can't learn to do art. Their skill makes them feel special and if someone else can learn to do it also, their specialness is threatened.

And saying that someone should not be awarded a degree because they don't know algebra is extremely arrogant and ignorant. There's a reason why they TEACH algebra in colleges.

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

It's the same deal as people who say others can't learn to do art.

Speaking as a former art major (which is why I'm a truck driver now, BTW), people who say that really used to piss me off. Sure, some folks have a huge natural artistic talent but the rest of us have to

learnhow to do art. When someone suggested my skills were due to a magical innate ability, I'd get ticked off and tell them no, everybody has the innate ability. My skills, in fact, came from many hours of tedious practice, doing the same thing over and over until I got it right.## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Insightful)

When someone suggested my skills were due to a magical innate ability, I'd get ticked off and tell them no, everybody has the innate ability. My skills, in fact, came from many hours of tedious practice, doing the same thing over and over until I got it right.

I don't think it has to be one or the other. I've never been able to draw worth shit. I probably could learn if I really wanted to, but even as a kid my skills were mediocre at best. Rational thinking and separating out bullshit from what's real I've always been very good at, even as a kid.

I think there most certainly are innate talents. The idea that "anyone can do it" might be true if we all had infinite patience, time, and motivation. We don't of course, so we gravitate towards things which we develop at with less effort. If you work at subject A and get half as far as the average person, but work at subject B and get twice as far.. which one do you think most people will pick?

It's not magic, it's just how our brains are wired.

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Use it or lose it. Just like most people after studying a language in high school can barely remember to say hello in it years later. Good thing is they can relearn it faster than first time around.

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you can't say such a thing without knowing what specialization a person would have. Statistics is the bread and butter of some work, for others just plugging numbers into formulas that have been known for a century or two (my job at national lab was like that for 10 years!), for others the heavy duty tensor calculus or partial diffy-Qs. Same situation in engineering.

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## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:4, Insightful)

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:4, Informative)

As a mathematician with a statistician wife, I'm surprised by the number of responses like yours. Many people here are asserting that they never use calculus but constantly use statistics. Do they never work with a continuous distribution? No z-tests, f-tests, t-test, chi^2-tests? No exponential, gamma, beta, gaussian, log-normal, logistic distributions?

Or maybe they just don't know that probability theory is based on integration, and every time they compute an expected value, correlation, variance, co-variance, skewness, kurtosis, regression, etc. they are using calculus-based techniques and results. That would go a long way to explaining why my wife is consistently busy consulting with scientists who have worked themselves into a corner with their data. They designed their experiment to produce sub-optimal data and can't do the analyses to extract the meager conclusions their design entails.

Sorry, I don't mean to pick on you in particular, but to say that one uses statistics all the time and never uses calculus is preposterous.

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Insightful)

No matter what kind of scientist you plan to be, your knowledge of calculus will be essential. You'll never use statistics

This has to be about the worst piece of advice about a science education I've ever seen. Like anything, it depends. Calculus is extraordinarily useful to someone in physics, but less so in biology. Statistics is insanely important in an experimental science (actually it's insanely important in just about any science I can think of). Hell, statistics should be a mandatory class taught in High School. It's far more applicable to everyday life than trig is.

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:4, Funny)

Hell, statistics should be a mandatory class taught in High School. It's far more applicable to everyday life than trig is.

But then how is little jimmy gonna know how tall the statue is on top of the building from 100 yards away.

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Insightful)

They want you to pass calculus for a reason. No matter what kind of scientist you plan to be, your knowledge of calculus will be essential. You'll never use statistics but you will need to use calculus every day.

Are you wooshing me here?

Having an understanding of what a derivative or integral of a function is a good insight to have, no doubt.

But I would argue that statistics is much more broadly applicable, and extremely important for a clear understanding of scientific discourse and all the 'facts' that the poster will encounter.

In reply to the original query, what you're going to need to do is a lot of problems. You need to look at this like getting in shape--you can't do it overnight.

I returned to college after about 5 years off and needed to take placement exams myself. Turned out the test allowed using a Ti-89. I cheated myself out of really 'placing' myself by being able to approximate/calculate all the multiple choice answers and placed highly.

After a few attempts in the classes I was placed in, in the end, I re-took precal and calculus.

I could have avoided that if I had actually done a large volume of problems rather than skimming some books and looking at the answers and deciding that it was 'easy enough'.

Never look at the answers of problems until you try them. Once you know the right answer, you convince yourself the problem was easy and that you didn't need to do it. This will fuck you over in the end.

Find an approach to doing math that makes it enjoyable for you. One thing that helped me a lot was getting a large whiteboard. I find I enjoy doing math more pacing back in front of a board and whatever else comes along with doing work on a board rather than a piece of lined paper. Chalk would have been better.

Lastly, ignore the assholes here who are going to berate you for not knowing what they think is simple, obvious knowledge. Math is rife with 'tricks' and non-intuitive methods to solving problems that come through experience. Someone who had a good experience with math through school and went straight into college is not going to understand your position.

Good luck to you, and if you really want this, do problems and problems and more problems. Put on some music you love and shred through a book or two. Get help at local colleges. Bribe a friend to help you study, or just hire a tutor.

Otherwise, you're going to end up doing it by taking the classes (as I did). One way or another, you have to do the work.

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

You'll never use statistics but you will need to use calculus every day.

Statistics is great for figuring out when you're being lied to, so go ahead and learn it or prepare for a lifetime of being easily manipulated with real-sounding BS.

## Re:If you can't handle calculus, science isnt for (Score:5, Interesting)

And stats is pretty uselessThat has to be one of the most useless statements I've read on Slashdot. Statistics is one of the most applicable branches of mathematics; it does the best job of allowing us to model our observations of events, since we understand 0% of the world around us well enough to say with 100% confidence what the outcome of a certain event will be.

Not only is it an extremely important field, it's an extremely understudied and undervalued one. I avoided statistics until I began my master's degree, and if there was anything about my educational career I could change it would be taking an intro to statistics course in my undergraduate years, or even AP Statistics while in high school because of how applicable it is to

everything.## Re: (Score:2)

Statistics are, absolutely, one of the most useful. I'd wager you can improve your performance and ability to "get it done" in pretty much any professional field with a mastery of statistical analysis: anything from field biology/naturalist to burger flipper, really.

No, it might not be immediately or daily pertinent, but if you've got a non-trivial data set, you've got enough data to find a trend. Being able to prove a trend is better (by far) than an "instinctual" hunch, observation, or crudely derived "ed

## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

thebasis for interpreting any kind of quantitative measurement. Beware: trying to interpret measurements without knowing this stuff is perfectly analogous to the way people used to build large buildings (sometimes successfully) without using any mathematical modeling, before things like Hooke's law were well known. Sure, plenty of buildings would co## Re: (Score:2)

When I say "everything follows a normal distribution", that's because everything is assumed to do so.Well, yes, of course it is. That's why it's called a "normal distribution."

## Define: "a few math courses to wrap up a degree" (Score:5, Informative)

Calc II, Calc III, Diff Eq, I II or III. Linear Algebra, Statistics,

There's a huge difference.

There's always MIT's Open Courseware. [mit.edu]

## Always without a calculator. (Score:5, Funny)

It's essential that he pass calculus I, III, III and Diff EQ without the use of a calculator.

Just in case we are bombed back into the stoneage, he wont have to worry about losing his job as a scientist.

## Re:Always without a calculator. (Score:5, Funny)

## Re:Always without a calculator. (Score:5, Funny)

## Re:Always without a calculator. (Score:5, Insightful)

"Bombed back to the stone age" is best regarded as just an expression. The iron age is here to stay, no matter how much civilization declines. Even if we forget how to smelt iron ore, there would be

billionsof tons of refined iron lying around in abandoned machinery, buildings, and such.## Re: (Score:3, Funny)

...Even if we forget how to smelt iron ore, there would be

billionsof tons of refined iron lying around in abandoned machinery, buildings, and such.Not if they've come for our metals and women.

## Re:Define: "a few math courses to wrap up a degree (Score:5, Informative)

UCLA has some great courses too.

science and magic [academicearth.org] was very informative. It doesn't hurt that some of the profs are also quite entertaining.OR science and magic on youtube [youtube.com]

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## Engineering Math by Stroud (Score:5, Informative)

## Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

If you're job hunting, your time would be better spent making yourself relevant to current employers or starting a consulting business than trying to match your calc and trig skills with a recent grad and get a degree.

A degree is a nice "filter" when hiring new applicants, since it proves that they were able to deal with BS for at least 4 years, however with 20 years of actual job experience, you'll do much better off trying to differentiate yourself from the recent grads than you will if you try to "look better on paper."

That said, if you want to do this just because it's "unfinished business" lots of community colleges have entire departments dedicated to getting us old folks "up to speed". Just stop by and talk to someone.

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

If you haven't needed a degree or calculus in 20 years, why bother now?

In case you haven't realised it, there is a recession going on, a -lot- of people are either unemployed, their spouse is unemployed or they need a way to secure their job. Rather than doing the rational thing of looking at productivity, most businesses hire and pay based on education. If his wife lost her job and he was expecting the income, the only way he can get a raise to keep up his standard of living might be through a degree.

Most degrees are completely useless when done for a raise, but, money

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Dunno - perhaps he wants to shift careers a bit, or enter academia?

Sometimes a degree is useful when you want to leave one area of his career and enter another. For instance, perhaps the guy has been doing field engineering all this time, but now wants to do design? Maybe he's sick of working/running a lab, and instead wants to create and run the projects?

Even in my own corner of the working world (IT), I find myself increasingly wishing that I'd taken more business courses as I leave behind being a server

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

Even in my own corner of the working world (IT), I find myself increasingly wishing that I'd taken more business courses as I leave behind being a server monkey (and in one previous job, code monkey). Nowadays I'm routinely running my own budgets, doing the politics dance, and overseeing both people and projects. Mind you, I have no desire to get an MBA, but having to handle vendors, routinely run RFP's of six figures (one this year approached seven), while handling/syncing various execs' ideas of project m## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

hahaha, what a bunch of BS! Apparently, you've never been a contractor/consultant long term in IT. Trust me, as a contractor or consultant you're shown the door quite often and the supposed big money you've made all dries up in bills and expenses while you seek another spot as you're between gigs. I've been there for many years after the .com explosion in 2002 and trust me it was no picknick. You'll be no better off than a migrant farmer in that field right now. When the economy is humming along then you ca ## This site helped me (Score:5, Informative)

This tutorial site helped me through 6 years of school. Hope it helps you too! http://tutorial.math.lamar.edu/

## Some sites I've come across (Score:5, Informative)

Drexel's Math Forum [mathforum.org] (full disclosure: I'm a current Drexel employee and student -- but the Math Forum strikes me as pretty cool.)

Project Euler [projecteuler.net](more oriented toward programming and numerical methods, but interesting site for developing your math skills. The problems range from not-too-hard to mind-boggling.)

Purple Math [purplemath.com]

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## Hard work should do the trick (Score:4, Insightful)

Most text books have practice questions for each chapter, and some answers in the back. Why not just work through some of those on your own? Math is the kind of subject that you can only learn by doing problems, so I don't think there's any shortcuts. But I suppose if you work on problems, it's nice to have a teacher to help if you get stuck, but perhaps a reasonable substitute would be forums.

## CC (Score:2)

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I was going back to school to become a teacher. In so doing I had to take a Trig course. I did so online from my local community college. It really refreshed my math skills (that were ~20 years old).

Keep in mind I had taken through Series and Diff Eq. in college, so I had mastered the material previously. (Don't ask why I needed trig. in spite of having had the upper level courses. Just a magic hoop to jump through).

-Chris

## Re: (Score:2)

Don't ask why I needed trig. in spite of having had the upper level courses. Just a magic hoop to jump through.

In high school, I had that same sort of problem. I moved from one school system where you took World History in two parts, one in 8th grade (middle school) and one in 9th grade (high school), to one where the two parts were pushed up a year. Despite having completed both classes successfully, they made me retake history part I, because they just didn't trust that I learned anything. They also made me take the standardized test for the second history class, which I passed with a perfect score on, making thei

## Krzysztof Wilczynski (Score:4, Informative)

## A Bit of Advice and a Few Suggestions (Score:5, Insightful)

What you're mostly going to find in these replies are codices. Not teaching. Not knowledge. You're going to get information sources. What you do with those sources,

thatwill be the teaching, the learning and the progress. No one's going to help you get your math back but you. You're going to get static nonliving information and it's going to be up to you to bring that alive. Frankly, on your part it's going to require the will of a volcano otherwise I suggest a tutor or precalculus class.The course I can refer you to echos my sentiments [mit.edu]:

This material could conceivably be studied by a student on his or her own, but this seldom works out. Students tend to get stuck on something, and, having no goad to keep them going, they try to get past it with decreasing energy, and ultimately develop mental blocks against going on. Having an organized course prevents this by forcing them to face obstacles like exams and assignments.

If you attempt this and get stuck, as is almost inevitable, you could try emailing us and we can try to unstick you.

Did you catch that last part? You're going to need help. Whether it's bribing your nerdy friends with cases of beer or Star Wars Galaxy Series Five collectible card packs (

*cough* *cough*) you are going to need guidance at certain points in time. Don't be afraid to ask those around you or -- and I recommend this only in dire cases -- dressing up like a student and rolling into your local university asking to see the precalc professor for help.Your codex might be Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]. Your codex might be Wolfram's MathWorld [wolfram.com]. My codex sits three feet in front of my face as I type this. My codex (and this is purely personal) Bronshtein et al's Handbook of Mathematics [amazon.com]. The binding is acceptable. The paper is not the greatest. The content is priceless. This

is nota teaching device. This is my starting point. If I were you my ending point would be at my college's library pouring over all calculus textbooks. The great thing about this starting point is that I like how it lays out all the starting points leading up to that starting point in case I need to start backwards. Another great thing about this particular resource is that it has nearly everything imaginable and is well organized. The bad thing is that it costs $71.97. I think I paid $60 for mine but either way it's not free like Wikipedia.I don't know where you are comfortable starting from but if I were you I would simply research what your learning institutions pre requisites are and spend your free time now acquiring their books and notes in order to make sure you have them covered. All of my old University of Minnesota syllabuses are online [umn.edu] although I cannot find the Math department equivalent (aside from the registration listings).

If you could name your courses, I'd suggest books like

The Annotated Turing[theannotatedturing.com] which has been a page turner for me and actually starts with basic set theory to work up to automata. I'm guessing you're aiming for more Multivariable and Diff Eq type stuff. Let us know what the courses are and perhaps more human readable works can be suggested that aren't as laboriously mind numbing as reading a codex would be.## Go to your public library (Score:2)

and check out all of the relevant math textbooks. Make sure there are exercises for each chapter for which answers are provided somewhere in the book.

Then, read the chapters, and do the problems. Keep doing the problems until you get every . single . one . of . them . right and you understand what you've previously done wrong in each case.

Pour over it until you really understand the relationships between the quantities.

It is very hard work, but there is no shortcut to understanding math and science, and if

## Cheap, easy classes (Score:2)

## Khan, MIT (Score:3, Informative)

You might like:

Khan Academy http://www.khanacademy.org/ [khanacademy.org]

(Get an account for the review software if you have forgotten college algebra skills as well.)

MIT's Open Courseware http://ocw.mit.edu/ [mit.edu]

Many of these courses now have full video libraries of lectures, homework and exam solutions, etc. You can buy a text and take the course.

I am interested to see other finds out there, though.

## Motivation (Score:5, Insightful)

## MIT Opencourseware? (Score:3, Informative)

Dunno about college placement tests, but to start thinking about maths in general there's nothing like just buying a couple of books and going at it (but make sure you have the answer booklet/solutions are in the back of the book). If you're feeling a little panicky you might even want to start with something really un-threatening ('Statistics for dummies' exists for that). You might want to see what the standard textbooks would be for the courses that are prerequisites for the ones you're looking to study, and perhaps ask which areas you would be expected to be comfortable with.

Also, the MIT opencourseware site is probably your friend: http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Mathematics/ [mit.edu]

As regards an online tutor, depending on whether you currently live near a college/university/miscellaneous site of higher learning, you might want to see if there are any postgrads in applicable subjects who are willing to tutor. In my experience online tutors are seldom worth half as much as talking to a real live actual human being, and they are usually more expensive. YMMV - especially if you are extremely busy an online tutor may actually suit you better than scheduling another real live person into your week.

Finally - good luck :)

## Try Karl's Calculus Tutor (Score:2)

I've found karlscalculus.org to be a useful site. for my brushing-up needs.

## Sigh... (Score:3, Insightful)

I find it profoundly unsatisfying that you have to ask this question.

It's not your fault; it's the structure of the educational system. You are clearly not interested in mathematics, since you just want to cram and pass some test. You don't specify exactly for what you need mathematics, but I'm guessing it's for some other thing, possibly something computer related.

It's a big lie that you'll ever use calculus for anything except for specialised degrees (and if you were to use it for anything you personally would want to do in your future, you would already be interested in it). It's also profoundly strange that calculus seems to be pinnacle of mathematical education if you're not going to go on to study something like mathematics itself or physics.

To put my frustration another way, why doesn't anybody ever ask similar questions for sculpture, or Schaum's Outlines on Basket Weaving or all the other myriad useless things we humans do for our edification? Why is western society obsessed with mathematics, deluded into thinking it's useful in general, and why are people so stressed over learning this useless and dryly-presented subject? Why aren't you required to achieve a certain level of chess expertise before you can complete a computer science degree? A lot of early computer science was concerned with chess playing, let us not forget!

It's pointless. It's pointless to cram for exams about subjects you don't care about in order to satisfy requirements you don't genuinely need.

My recommendation is, are you really interested in learning this stuff? If so, just spend hours and hours in your local university library in the math section browsing books you're interested in. If you're not really interested, go grab some Schaum's Outlines or the Complete Idiot's guide or whatever, and use that to pass whatever bureaucratic and pointless requirement your educational institute imposes before you're allowed to study what you really want to study.

## Re:Sigh... (Score:5, Informative)

Math is useful in general. And western society doesn't just stress about learning math. An even greater number are probably stressed about passing english tests [ets.org]. Society thinks language and math are important to education; your basket-weaving and sculpture not so much. I personally don't see the problem with this.

## Re: (Score:2)

"Q: What is 2 + 5? A: It is 5 + 2 of course."

My blog posting a year ago on how a community college classroom of 20-year-olds will be utterly stunned when presented with this information: http://angrymath.blogspot.com/2009/03/never-ending-amazement.html [blogspot.com]

## Re:Sigh... (Score:5, Informative)

Because it is the basis of all fields of science.

And quite a few fields of art.

I *HATE* math, but I use it every single day, and in the areas I'm known for, I can do the math needed...mostly in my head. I've also found that as I've tried to branch out of my areas of expertise, that I can't rely on the few areas of math that I know fluently, because I'm starting to bang my head against the ceiling.

For instance, I took a few basic undergrad courses recently (I have a masters in psychology), and I couldn't remember the damn quadratic equation...I could get the answer just fine -- if I wanted to spend 15 minutes solving it (or as I did, write a quick plot app on my laptop to show the answers figuring it out computationally as opposed to mathematically)...and it was only after one of my twenty-something classmates looked at me and said Dude, Why Don't You Just Use The Quadratic Equation that I realized how much I had forgotten (I had no use for math 20 years ago and slept through this).

It is funny how knowing the simple concepts can make your life simple. Anyone can brute force just about anything.

If you don't want to do anything science based...and this includes almost any social science even if people think these are not real...or any advanced art (I have a friend that does weavings, and to get what she wants, and for the patterns to work out in real life, not just paper, she needs to know math to get these to work)...math is the basis for all of this. Oh and the chess algs? it is all math...pretty advanced math...it isn't chess these guys were after...it was computational mathmatics to attack a human problem.

This summer, I am signing up for a 100 level math course and getting the basics back again...I wish I would have done it before...it sucks that I can get results from Mathematica or SPSS, but I can't do simple algebraic equations. You might not think it interesting or necessary, but then again, I can't tell if you are being serious or if your humor is just VERY dry...if you are serious...wow...

## Always been a pet peeve of mine (Score:2)

I was told how much math I'd need since I wanted to get in to technology. Math teachers always kept on about how important it was. Well, they are dad wrong. I need a good understanding of arithmetic, and some basic algebra is also useful. Past that, I use nothing. Had I stuck with CS, linear algebra would be good (since a lot of programming relates to it) but certainly not calc. Knowing calc is kinda neat, it allows me to understand how some things are done, but they aren't things I need to do, a program do

## Re:Sigh... (Score:5, Insightful)

Why is western society obsessed with mathematics, deluded into thinking it's useful in general, and why are people so stressed over learning this useless and dryly-presented subject?Essentially because:

1) Everyone should learn logic and disciplined thought. Otherwise you'll end up with adults who can't read instruction manuals, have an attention span of 5 year olds and can't see their own mistakes and contradictions due to disorganized thought processes and hubris. Math can have a humbling effect on people.

2) Proper mathematics is used constantly by good electrical engineers, physicists and mathematicians. If you want a good engineer, you have to teach him math from childhood. And since you can't have a grade school for scientists and another one for everyone else, everyone has to learn math.

3) Math greatly contributes to keep idiots out of the sciences, med school and other important professions.

## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

I find it profoundly unsatisfying that you have to ask this question.

You are probably just put off by the title of this post. "Help Me Get My Math Back" is a presumptuous start to be sure, but his actual question is fine.

And his actual question is not what you addressed at all. He's just asking if you know of any place that has the information he needs in a format that is convenient to him. Your response is just a depressing and pointless toil at windmills.

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

In a similar thread on Slashdot, someone posted a link to A Mathematician's Lament [maa.org], by Paul Lockhart, which I found persuasive and very moving.

I'm in a position similar to that of the original poster. I've gone back to school, after years of low-paid jobs, hoping to work towards a CS degree. I had to admit I wouldn't be able to do it -- I've found the programming and networking courses very easy, but the calculus courses I took required ten times as much study as everything else put together, and I was stil

## A Very Good Survey (Score:4, Informative)

What is Mathematics?, by Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins, in the 2nd edition (which I have).There is a new edition, edited by Ian Stewart, which Amazon has:

What is Mathematics?[amazon.com]I like the book because it is geared to an intelligent adult reader; it doesn't assume much technical math knowledge, but it gives (IMHO) an excellent overview of the concepts through calculus. It has exercises, too.

## Newtonian physics (Score:2, Insightful)

I remember Newtonian mechanics as the best applied calculus class. If you didn't like calculus as math, maybe this will work out better for you. It links math with more physical (useful?) phenomena.

If not, I don't have a clue what would help you, since I found college calculus much better than AP high school stuff.

## ThatQuiz.org (Score:2)

I'm not sure to what extent this site would help:

www.ThatQuiz.org [thatquiz.org]

But I like to go back there from time to time and run through various tests just for "the fun of it." I'm not only surprised by the simple things I've forgotten over the years, but I'm also surprised at some of the things I never use but still remember.

## Calculus (Score:2)

Really for me the main trick was understanding exactly what a derivative was. It sounds obvious I know but you really have to get your head wrapped around exactly what it's doing and the basic idea of summing an infinite series of slices. Do some mental exercises like the speed of a car and how a speedometer works, imagining the rate a pool of different shapes would be filling up as the water rises, etc...

Once you get the concept clear and what it means the rest is just memorizing the various transforms

## The Princeton Review (Score:2, Informative)

They have prep books for SAT Math 1 & 2 which covers (ironically) more complicated stuff, and I think that's what you really want. For getting your mind back in mathematics mode, I'd pick up both of those (twenty bucks each or less) and work through all the exercises you need to in order to jog the memory banks. Start with the GRE math and good

## Not enough information. (Score:4, Informative)

You haven't specified what kind of degree, and therefore, what kind of coursework is required. Moreover, even the same level of coursework taught at different institutions can vary widely in difficulty. "Undergraduate calculus" at, say, Caltech is nothing like "undergraduate calculus" two blocks away at Pasadena City College. The same goes for statistics.

If your intention is to obtain a degree, the best starting point is to figure out which text(s) are being used in those courses that are required for that degree. This will give you some idea of the scope and level of difficulty to expect. Otherwise, you could end up studying a great deal of ancillary information. Such things may be good to know, but will not contribute to your stated goal.

Regarding your plan to dive right in, I appreciate and understand your enthusiasm but I also think it is misguided and potentially counterproductive. You could very easily make it much more difficult for you to obtain your credits by not reviewing basics beforehand. Mathematics is not a subject that is easily cherry-picked, nor is it amenable to rote learning. It is more like a vast edifice, a tower whose foundations support increasingly complex and abstract concepts. Furthermore, it is a topic which is best learned through actual understanding. For instance, if you understand what integration actually means, rather than viewing it as a mechanical operation on a function, you will find it easier to interpret other concepts that employ integration, such as the calculation of moment-generating functions of continuous probability distributions.

On some level, it's possible to "get by" with simply learning the mechanics of computation and symbolic manipulation. That is pretty much what calculus is (as opposed to analysis). But if you want to make it as easy as possible on yourself, at the very least I advise you quickly review nearly everything at the high-school level, from algebra to trigonometry. Then take a more detailed look at the AP Calculus curriculum; any gaps in knowledge should be readily apparent and immediately addressed before continuing further. From there, you should compare against the aforementioned college coursework and texts.

Success in learning mathematics is not so much about the details of what you know as it is about how to think analytically and abstractly.

## iTunes U (Score:3, Informative)

## I did the same thing (Score:2)

I studied some stuff in the months before class, but was not really prepared at all. The first half of the first day of class covered all of algebra and pre-calc, the second half was new material. She put up stuff on the board the first day like x^(y/z) and expected us to k

## iTunesU + older textbooks (Score:2)

I'm pretty much in your same situation. I dropped out of college back in the late 90s, and the last math class that I successfully passed was Calculus II. I took a Calculus III class, but stopped going around the time I dropped out. This puts me at almost 15 years since I've attended a structure math class at the university level. Before that, I look Precalculus in high school...in 1991. I haven't ha

## Why not get some enjoyment out of it? (Score:2)

Go take a couple of courses for non-credit or "enrichment" at your local community college. Start a little bit behind where you think you are at the moment. It will air your brains out in a non-pressurized environment, give you some idea of what you need to be doing, and won't cost much. I did it years ago, about ten or twelve years after I finished college. It rebuilt my confidence, sharpened my skills after ten years of disuse, and was highly enjoyable in the bargain. The fees were very affordable. I neve

## Online, in class, at home (Score:2)

If you were an AP student in high school and enjoy math, you'll do fine the second time around in college. I had to work a lot harder at calculus than I expected during my first undergrad degree. Five years later I returned for another degree and found it much easier and more enjoyable. Suffer through Calc I, II, III, they're basically computation. The fun comes with a

## Lockhart's book is the only recommendation. (Score:3, Informative)

Lockhart, famous for his critique on “mathematics” “A Mathematician’s lament [maa.org]” is currently writing a book, to teach math the way it’s supposed to be taught.

I decided to wait for it, since all the other stuff on the market is the same retarded backwards-“teaching” shit, with the same stupid “learning rules by heart”.

## Math XL (Score:2)

Most colleges now use two sites for their online coursework. MathLab and Math XL. Both cost to join. Of course, you need to be in a class to get actual homework assignments(so no assignments - no big deal). But they do have full online tutoring, examples, and so on for you to review from the book. Some textbooks also have similar programs or access to them in a CD in the back.

Log in, select "I am studying on my own and need to select a textbook" Then search for the author. Go to course home at the top

## Richard Courant's "What is Mathematics?" (Score:2)

Also, don't feel bad about having trouble with college calculus. IMO people seldom learn calculus in college when it is taught by the math dep

## There are a lot of jerk answers here (Score:4, Interesting)

Anyway, I commend you on your efforts to get back into mathematics. I started taking mathematics courses well after I received my B.A. (in Philosophy) and my friends and colleagues gave me no shortage of grief over this. I don't complain when they want to spend their free time painting or water skiing, and yet-- they seem to think there's something wrong with a grown man studying mathematics. The best advice I can give you is: ignore them. Mathematics is a fulfilling and beautiful subject. At the risk of sounding like a stoner, it will open your mind to new possibilities.

You already have the important part: motivation. But motivation is not quite enough. Until you understand the weird (or I should say, counterintuitive) ways of mathematics, you really need a teacher. This is worth the money. I was in your same position about five years ago, and what I did was: start at precalculus. I signed up for a summer course in precalc and trig at the local Uni (UMass Lowell, in case anyone is wondering...), and then I worked my way through calculus, stats, discrete math, set theory, algorithms, and formal languages. I threw in a physics course for kicks, and I found that it reinforced my calculus immensely.

Remember: math is hard. But not for the reason you think. It's hard because you need to change the way you think. The problem sets are essential, because they make you understand what assumptions can be kept, and which must be thrown away. You will be a better person for it. Once you change the way you think, math is easy. It sounds trite, I know, but it is very true.

Also, Bach helps during homework.

Good luck, and do not let your friends and family discourage you. I personally believe that if you are not challenging yourself, you are not living. I would do it again in a heart beat.

## Practice, practice, practice (Score:3, Informative)

Learning the tools is only half the job.

Skill is being able to pick the right tools throughout the process.

For me, at least, it's never been enough to learn the tools and techniques.

As you've already learned, use it or lose it; if you want it back, start working the exercises.

## thanks, and more info (Score:5, Informative)

## Re: (Score:2)

that's why God, on the eighth day, created cheap tax software. We don't have to think, just plug in the numbers.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Re: (Score:2)