Why is teaching calculus difficult?

Calculus is now introduced in the high school curriculum of schools in US. This in fact is an attempt to make US students more familiar and fluent with mathematics and its vocabulary. But, when teaching a subject like calculus to younger students teachers face an additional responsibility of transforming the complex ideas of the subject to simpler forms that can be easily grasped by younger students.

There are various difficulties that teachers face when teaching calculus to school level children. Calculus is a branch of mathematics that deals with change. It covers various complicate topics like limits, integration, differentiation and functions. It is also very essential that the student has a very strong base on other branches of mathematics like algebra, trigonometry and geometry.

The wide applications of calculus in other fields like engineering, chemistry, physics, economics and technology has made this subject crucial. Teaching as well as studying calculus requires a huge amount of dedication. Constant reviews, lots of homework and extreme patience are needed to make students understand this subject.

The number of students opting for calculus in high school is also increasing as this gives them the edge when competing for college admissions and financial aids for further studies. One major difficulty that teachers face when dealing with this increased number of students in their calculus sessions is the lack of proper resources. Unfortunately, most textbooks available on the subject are of a quality well above the understanding capacity of a high school student. What high school students need is a creative book that simplifies the complex ideas and vocabulary of calculus into something that can be easily understood.

Teachers also find it difficult to bring in interaction in a calculus classroom. Calculus is not a subject that is discussed by students with their friends, family or even other teachers. The reason mainly is that most of us are not comfortable with calculus. Teachers should try to find communication channels so that students can discuss the subject and understand its real-life applications. Small group activities, student presentations etc can be of good help.

Often, explaining the concepts to someone else might make studying easier. This applies to calculus also. Since students by themselves might not voluntarily involve in discussing a complicated subject like calculus, teachers can insist on students to tutor each other. Students will definitely, though gradually, find this interesting as they start experiencing the benefits of this process.

Try to make your students understand that calculus is not a subject restricted to formulas. Discuss with them the history of calculus, why it was developed, the mathematicians who worked behind the success of this branch of mathematics etc. When dealing with the concepts in calculus include as many real-life examples as possible. Students will grasp the concepts better when they are able to relate it to what they see and feel in their lives.

Some teachers might find difficulty in applying such innovative methods in teaching. Expert services should be made use of in such cases. Interactions with engineers, researchers and other people, who depend on calculus on a day-to-day basis, can influence your students to learn and understand the subject better.