How to Succeed in Calculus Classes: Talking About Common Struggles and Ways to Avoid Them


Ancient Greeks discovered calculus years ago. Without it, people would not be able to fly planes and spacecrafts, build skyscrapers, and model economic development. Today, every student should study calculus and at least learn the basics. Calculus problems are diverse and different approaches can be used in order to solve them. Therefore, the students should learn how to analyze problems, choose the best approaches, and then work on solutions. It helps students develop cognitive and problem-solving skills.

The Most Common Student Struggles


The list of calculus struggles can be endless, but it makes sense to study the most common ones and avoid them.

  • Communicational struggles: Bad handwriting, unclear wording, and the speed rate of your teacher can make you confused. He or she may seem arrogant, but do not be shy to ask when you do not understand something.
  • Calculation errors: Though calculus does not involve so many calculations as algebra class does, but so-called algebra errors are common, including sign and dimensional errors.
  • Notation struggles: Math problems often become challenging because students misunderstood notations and therefore make other mistakes.
  • Mistakes in reasoning: Students often go over their work, do not check limitations, forget about simple principles, misuse problem-solving approaches, and working backward.
  • Other popular calculus errors include misuse and loss of integration constants, jumping to conclusions about infinity, and loss of differentials.

Tips that Can Help You Avoid Common Struggles


The following ways to avoid the most common mistakes are helpful for every student:

  • If you do not understand the way your professor explains the material, prepare the concepts and approaches before class by reading a calculus textbook and watching educational videos.
  • Do not hesitate to ask questions when you lose the idea in class. Your professor can provide additional explanations and knock you back on track.
  • Immediately after the lecture, you can ask your professor about the class material as well as about the homework problems you struggle with.
  • Take notes in class and review them later to cement knowledge while the information is still fresh in your brain.
  • Prepare a list of concepts taught in calculus class. Mark the ones that you do not understand, so you will determine theoretical gaps that you have.
  • You should visit your professor during his or her office hours. However, first you must understand exactly what you need to figure out; write down your questions, come prepared, and never say something like “I do not get it.”