Getting ready for first year mathematics
Many students in universities across Canada find first-year calculus difficult. The main reason is that in mathematics, as in music or athletics, the development of knowledge and skill is cumulative: what you learn next depends heavily on retention of what you learned before. Facility with basic algebra is very important, as is ability to combine techniques from several areas. University courses proceed at a faster pace than courses in school. It is easy to fall behind and difficult to catch up, especially if your skills have diminished over the summer.
In order to ease the transition from high school to university, we suggest you keep up your mathematical knowledge and skills during the summer. There are several resources available to help:
- The Science Atlantic committee on Mathematics and Statistics has created a website "Preparing for university calculus at Atlantic Canadian universities", which is well worth having a look at.
- We have compiled a selection of exercises called "Are you ready for calculus?", with answers. These cover the parts of the high school curriculum most essential as background for calculus. Many of the problems are challenging. It will take some time to work through the complete set, but do not become discouraged if you have difficulty with some of them. You should consider working with friends or asking your high school teachers for assistance.
- The Math Learning Centre at UNB offers pre-term workshops to help incoming students brush up on calculus and linear algebra in late-August/early-September each year.
Finally, most students who want to take first year calculus will have to write the mathematics placement test in their orientation week. The purpose of this test is to gauge your readiness for calculus, and to guide you to the right course based on your background. Much more information about the test can be found here.