\( \newcommand{\abs}[1]{\left| \, {#1} \, \right| } \) \( \newcommand{\cm}{\mathrm{cm} } \) \( \newcommand{\sec}{ \, \mathrm{sec} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\units}[1]{\,\text{#1}} \) \( \newcommand{\vhat}[1]{\,\hat{#1}} \) \( \newcommand{\vhati}{\,\hat{i}} \) \( \newcommand{\vhatj}{\,\hat{j}} \) \( \newcommand{\vhatk}{\,\hat{k}} \) \( \newcommand{\vect}[1]{\boldsymbol{\vec{#1}}} \) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\|{#1}\|} \) \( \newcommand{\arccot}{ \, \mathrm{arccot} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\arcsec}{ \, \mathrm{arcsec} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\arccsc}{ \, \mathrm{arccsc} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\sech}{ \, \mathrm{sech} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\csch}{ \, \mathrm{csch} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\arcsinh}{ \, \mathrm{arcsinh} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\arccosh}{ \, \mathrm{arccosh} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\arctanh}{ \, \mathrm{arctanh} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\arccoth}{ \, \mathrm{arccoth} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\arcsech}{ \, \mathrm{arcsech} \, } \) \( \newcommand{\arccsch}{ \, \mathrm{arccsch} \, } \)

17Calculus Article - I Have A Terrible Math/Science Teacher. What Can I Do?

Single Variable Calculus
Multi-Variable Calculus

How To Learn Anything From ANY Teacher

Although these suggestions will help you deal with and learn from a difficult math teacher, they will also help you learn from any teacher, good or bad, and any subject.

If you have a bad or difficult teacher this semester, I'm sorry to say that your situation happens to every single person that has ever been in school and it seems to be more common with math teachers than with any other subject. I am sorry that you have to deal with this. This situation is not fair and should never happen. But the reality is that it does. However you have control here and you can decide what to do. Here are your options.
1. You can run. You can drop the class, change sections or just quit.
2. You can let it get to you, complain all semester and then blame the teacher when you get a poor grade.
3. You can deal with it and get the best grade possible under the circumstances.

If you choose options 1 or 2 above, most people wouldn't blame you. Lots of people have done one or both and have gone on to succeed in life (although not as successful as they could have been). You are not a bad person if you choose one of them. However, choosing 1 or 2 will not help you in the long run and you will lose an opportunity to learn about dealing with difficult people. There will be a day when you have to deal with a difficult co-worker or, even worse, a difficult boss. And you have the same choices now that you will have to make then. Also, right now only your grade is the issue, not your career. So doesn't it make sense to choose option 3? If so, read on. I will give you some ideas on how to work through this.

The Calculus Lifesaver: All the Tools you Need to Excel at Calculus

Okay, so if you are still reading, you have chosen (or are at least thinking about choosing) option 3. Let me start out by telling you that it will be challenging and you won't always like what you have to do. But I can tell you that it will be worth it. So keep reading.

First, what you need to do is change the way you think. Once you do that, you will be able to do some specific things that will get you through the class. Every action you have ever done has started in your mind. Your thoughts are extremely powerful and they affect everything you do. Are you ready? Okay, let's get started.

General Guidelines

1. Realize that your teacher is human and makes mistakes. They were young once. They have a life, a family and, for them, teaching is job. Some teachers teach because they are good at it. Some teachers teach only because they don't know how to do anything else. Maybe their parents are teachers and didn't give them any other choice when they were young. Maybe they are natural musicians or photographers or artists but they were not allowed to pursue that. Maybe they are new and have a lot to learn or maybe they are old and are just coasting to retirement. Whatever the reason, they ended up as your teacher after making many decisions along the way, maybe not always the best decisions. But your first job is to give them a break. Try to see them as a fallable human who is doing their best, even if it doesn't look like they are trying.
Now, understand that this is one of the hardest thing you will do and you will probably have to do it repeatedly every day you are in this class. But this is the key to everything that comes next. Do not skip this one and expect the other things to work because they won't. So, it's time to suck it up and just do it.

2. Okay, now that you have a little bit of perspective on the teacher, you can let go of the expectations you have of them and shift your attention to learning math. This is an important shift that is absolutely necessary if you are to succeed. You need to think about what you say to yourself about math. Do you say it is hard, evil and/or difficult or impossible? Do you tell yourself that you will never succeed, that you are not good at math, that you will never get it? If you are saying those negative things to yourself, they will become your reality and you will not succeed. That's the bottom line. You need to stop saying those things and start saying things like you can learn math, you are able to succeed, you have all the tools you need to master this class . . . things like that. I am not talking about positive thinking. I am talking about changing your reality by starting with what you think. What you think, will become reality. Do you want to fail? Then think about failing. Do you want to get good grades? Then start thinking about it.

3. Take charge of your own learning. It is way too easy to expect someone else to teach you and, honestly, it just won't happen, especially if you have a bad teacher. But even with a good teacher, you can learn much more than they will teach you by taking charge of your learning. So what does this look like? Taking charge means that you take responsibility for learning including reading the material before class, asking questions of the teacher and, if that doesn't work, finding someone else to answer your questions or, even better, figuring it out on your own. Reading additional material and researching outside of class so that you will truly understand the material. Turning in assignments complete and on time. Finding out what the teacher expects and following their rules and guidelines. Working within the system but not in a way to be limited by it. Doing more than expected inside and outside of class. Learn to be a good student.

Specific Techniques

1. Go to the college books page and get several books. First, get a book on how to be a better overall student. There are different techniques to study math, english and history. Learn the differences and implement the techniques. Second, get another book on calculus. The best I've found is How To Ace Calculus and it's sequel, How To Ace The Rest of Calculus. Next, if you have a bad textbook, get a used copy of a good one, like the ones on the college books page. The best I've found is Larson Calculus. Since you don't need it for a course, you can get a previous edition, sometimes for as little as $10. Use them and study them. Here are a few suggestions.

How to Become a Straight-A Student
College Study Skills
How To Ace Calculus

2. Work with other students in the class. Get a study group together with one person in the group that knows the material less than you and another person that knows the material better than you, if possible. You will get a tremendous boost in learning if you teach another person. And you will also have someone to ask questions of. Don't make the group too big, max 3-5, 2 if you can't work together, 6 if you need it.

3. Read the learning techniques article giving study techniques and implement them. Also read the article on how to teach yourself (entitled The Number One Study Concept Every Student Needs).

4. Do not skip anything that you don't understand while you are learning the material. Be diligent and persistent. The number one personality trait that will help you the most is persistence. Develop it and use. Don't give up on anything. Also, if you skip something, there is a very good chance that that concept will be on the exam. Even good teachers ask for the hard stuff on exams. Some teachers just ask you to regurgitate the easy stuff.


There are three keys to doing well in your class, (1) to change your thinking, (2) taking responsibility for your own learning and (3) persistence. Develop those three areas and you will learn how to do well in any class with a bad (or even good) teacher.

Really UNDERSTAND Calculus

Log in to rate this page and to see it's current rating.

To bookmark this page, log in to your account or set up a free account.

Search Practice Problems

Do you have a practice problem number but do not know on which page it is found? If so, enter the number below and click 'page' to go to the page on which it is found or click 'practice' to be taken to the practice problem.

calculus motivation - music and learning

Join Amazon Prime - Watch Thousands of Movies & TV Shows Anytime - Start Free Trial Now

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

I recently started a Patreon account to help defray the expenses associated with this site. To keep this site free, please consider supporting me.

Support 17Calculus on Patreon


Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!

When using the material on this site, check with your instructor to see what they require. Their requirements come first, so make sure your notation and work follow their specifications.

DISCLAIMER - 17Calculus owners and contributors are not responsible for how the material, videos, practice problems, exams, links or anything on this site are used or how they affect the grades or projects of any individual or organization. We have worked, to the best of our ability, to ensure accurate and correct information on each page and solutions to practice problems and exams. However, we do not guarantee 100% accuracy. It is each individual's responsibility to verify correctness and to determine what different instructors and organizations expect. How each person chooses to use the material on this site is up to that person as well as the responsibility for how it impacts grades, projects and understanding of calculus, math or any other subject. In short, use this site wisely by questioning and verifying everything. If you see something that is incorrect, contact us right away so that we can correct it.

Links and banners on this page are affiliate links. We carefully choose only the affiliates that we think will help you learn. Clicking on them and making purchases help you support 17Calculus at no extra charge to you. However, only you can decide what will actually help you learn. So think carefully about what you need and purchase only what you think will help you.

We use cookies on this site to enhance your learning experience.


Copyright © 2010-2022 17Calculus, All Rights Reserved     [Privacy Policy]     [Support]     [About]

Real Time Web Analytics