I used to be a proud member of the group ‘calculus haters’, during my college days. This used to be one subject that I could not make heads or tails of. The scariest part was the way ‘differential calculus’ and ’integral calculus’ sounded. Not able to score well in calculus, the math geeks wear my worst enemies. This was till I figured out what was going wrong.
I understand that calculus is now thought at high school levels. Hope my experience will be helpful to teachers who wish to make calculus easy for their students.
My calculus teacher concentrated on the formulas rather than the real-life application or implication of the formulas. There used to be a revision session during the first ten minutes of every calculus class. This did help me memorize formulas but left me even more confused. It was my external tutor who helped me make sense out of the subject.
Since I was in a very bad stage as far as my calculus knowledge was concerned my tutor started off with developing a timetable wherein I had to dedicate at least one hour every day to read books other than my prescribed calculus textbook and discuss with him the next day on anything regarding calculus like the history, the brains behind its development, why and where it is applied and the like.
Initially I felt this was an unnecessary waste of time. But gradually, I understood that I had started developing an affinity towards the subject. I started to think beyond the formulas. I gradually developed a strong calculus vocabulary enabling me to make sense out of the questions involving calculus.
My tutor encouraged discussions in the class. We were free to express our doubts and concerns. A major characteristic of the tutor which encouraged me to give my best shot to the subject was his willingness to accept that even teachers can make mistakes. Learning became more fun when we were given the freedom to discuss different possible ways to solve a calculus problem. What I noticed was I no longer had to work out a bulk of problems to be thorough with a chapter. We were saving a lot of time and understanding better by making these small changes in the method of teaching.
I strongly feel that teachers should concentrate more on making students understand calculus rather than working out large numbers of problems in class. Such an approach to teaching when combined with the ten minutes revision sessions can do wonders.
That was how I improved my calculus. But some students face an additional difficulty of a very weak base in mathematics. Calculus unfortunately, is a branch of mathematics that is heavily dependent on three other branches of mathematics – geometry, trigonometry and algebra. Scoring in calculus would be a herculean or even impossible task for a student who is not confident about these three branches. Teachers can take additional responsibility to conduct an hour or so of classes after school hours to explain these basics to the students. You might feel that this is an unnecessary burden. But trust me; you will thank yourself for investing your time and energy in improving the knowledge of your students.