Monday, October 17, 2005

What Is This "Calculus" You Learned in High School?

My calculus students have been disgruntled all semester. The mantra, "Why do we have to do this? I took calculus in high school!" is repeated on an almost daily basis. Limits? Don't need to know them. Continuity? Unnecessary. Background of any sort? Irrelevent.

Calculus is all about derivatives, my students insist. They know how to take derivatives, they insist.

Every problem on the past four quizzes has been of the form given f(x), find f'(x). The means of these quizzes (out of 10 points) have been: 6.5, 7.3, 7.8, and 4.9.

It seems that nefarious agents have erased the product rule from my students' minds.