Home Study Companion: Calculus
The Calculus course is based on Paul A. Foerster’s Calculus: Concepts and Applications, 2nd Edition. The Foerster text is highly regarded for use in AP Calculus courses. It shares the merits of Foerster’s other texts: clear explanations, a great collection of application problems, and a personal touch.
The HSC Calculus materials include two videos per lesson (one lecture, one problem solving, and extra files including spreadsheet programs and numerous GeoGebra demonstrations.
Other required materials:
- Keep all work in a notebook, preferably with graph paper or quadrille ruled paper.
- Download GeoGebra (Classic edition, Ver. 5). It is needed to run the GeoGebra demos (stored as files ending in .ggb) included with the course, and it is a great tool that largely replaces a graphing calculator. (I use GeoGebra in lieu of “graphing calculators” which are severely limited by their clumsy user interfaces and small screen sizes.)
- You will need a spreadsheet program. The standard option is Excel which is part of Microsoft Office, but Calc, which is part of Libre Office is an excellent and free Open Source alternative. Calc has its own native file format, but it also reads and writes the Excel file format. You will need one of these spreadsheets to run the demo files provided with the course and you will be learning to use the spreadsheet as a calculation tool.
- For Precalculus, Calculus, and beyond I recommend an RPN scientific calculator, the system developed for scientific calculators by Hewlett-Packard. RPN notation takes a little getting used to at first, but it is wonderful for its fluency and reliability. I describe my HP calculator as an “extension of my brain.” RPN is a parenthesis-free notation system. Even quite complicated expressions can be computed without having to keep track of nested parentheses.There are several RPN options. The on-screen calculator, Calc98, which Math Without Borders students have seen in my videos since Algebra 1, has the ability to switch into RPN mode. Another downloadable RPN calculator I became aware of recently is Free42, which emulates the top-of-the-line HP-42s calculator. This one is especially nice since it is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, but also as an iPhone and Android ap. If you have a smart phone, Free42 may well meet your hand-held calculator needs. A manual for Free42 is available here. If you want a stand-alone hand-held RPN calculator, the most practical option at this time is the HP-35s, which sells in the $50 range.