30 June 2006 · 3:12 pm

- If you have a somewhat reasonable level of skill with precalculus math and can buy in to the “total immersion” environment of a summer calculus course, then taking calculus in the summer is a pretty good idea — maybe even moreso than taking it during a 14-week semester, precisely because of the total immersion you get.
- If you are
*not* willing to immerse yourself in the subject (you pick up a part-time job that eats up your afternoons and evenings, or you would just rather be at the pool) — that is, if you don’t accept the idea that you’ll be in class all morning and then working on the class most of the afternoon, every day, then taking calculus in the summer isn’t going to work for you because of the rapid pace of the summer course. Calculus comes at you like an avalanche even during a 14-week semester; to compress it almost by a factor of two demands a corresponding ramp-up in study habits and time investment.
- If you are taking calculus in the summer because you took it in the spring and flunked, you’ll probably flunk it again. The fact that you’re taking it for the second time and have seen the stuff before is cancelled out by the rapid pace and whatever other issues caused you to flunk the first time.
- Point #3 is assuming of course that you didn’t flunk because of unavoidable external factors, like family emergencies and so on. HOWEVER: The professor you had in the spring is NOT one of those factors. You can’t expect to suddenly understand calculus under one professor because you didn’t get it under another professor. Calculus classes, around here at least, are pretty uniform.

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Re: point #3: I have done a small-scale unscientific study of my students and have found that of the students who fail calculus and then take it again (regular academic semesters — not summer term), that 80% of them will fail it again the second time.