Why Calculus?

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by misfit, Aug 2, 2000.

  1. misfit

    misfit Blinded Me With Science

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    Hello to everybody reading this post:
    My question for this topic: Why calculus? Let me elaborate: Among my med school applications, I applied to Dartmouth and USUHS (military med school). Both schools require Calculus 1 (at least one semester) as part of pre-medicine requirements.
    My question is, of course, what is the purpose of taking this course? Does it truly serve as a marker for academic performance in medical school? Does it even have applications in medical school curriculums? Or, is it merely an insidious device used by adcoms to see which hoops the applicants are willing to jump through?
    Though I am poking fun at the subject, I am looking for candid and serious responses. And, no, I have not yet taken the course, but I will consider it for Fall or Winter semesters.

    Thanks for your time.

    misfit
     
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  3. Pebbles

    Pebbles Senior Member

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    Misfit,

    In the clinical setting there will be situations where you, the physician, has to calculate (sliding scale) medication amounts depending on the patients weigh and many other things. I suppose the medical schools want to insure that you have a good understanding of mathematical calculations. I know calculus is a complex math but if you can handle calculus then you will be more than comfortable doing simple algebra on a patients case. Don't worry you will not have to calculate the limit or derivative in the clinical setting.

     
  4. mvalento

    mvalento Senior Member

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    i don't know why a finite math course or other non-calculus course isn't acceptable for some schools- and i believe that any math you may need is covered in physics anyway, which all schools require. calculus is definitely NOT on the MCAT. i am fairly confident that most doctors never integrate, take derivatives, or find limits. of course, i am probably just bitter about my calc experience...anyway my vote is that calculus is just another endurance test.

     
  5. s-pish

    s-pish Member

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    Some schools like Notre Dame require every freshmen to take calculus (even all the football players). I can't figure that one out either.

    Maybe calculus comes into play for medical research? (I'm just taking a stab in the dark with that one)
     
  6. fiatslug

    fiatslug Senior Member
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    Calculus is clearly an instrument of the devil. Newton invented calculus as his private language to talk to God; would that he had kept it to himself!! Ah, well, Liebnitz would have gotten us there anyway. There are only a handful of schools which require even one semester of calculus; I, of course, am attending one (grrrr...). There's a AAMC study somewhere which asked medical students what premed prereq classes they found the most & least helpful... Calc was unquestionably the least helpful class!

    Get through it; this too shall pass. Take the easier calc option if your school offers it.
     
  7. Arti

    Arti Member

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    Misfit:

    Although uou do need to know some basic calculus math for enzymatics, the real
    purpose of Calculus (in my opinion) is for screening purpose. Math is rich in concepts and problem solving, so is medicine. If you can demonstrate good math sckills, it will tell Adcoms that yo are very good in processing difficult concepts and also have great problem solving skills.

    Arti
     
  8. Arti,

    Are you saying that I will have a slight advantage in the admission committee's eyes because I have taken math all the way up thru PDE? (Partial Differential Equations, about the equivalent of Calculus 5)

    Calculus I is a must if you want to do research or understand how certain formulas were derived (e.g. equations measuring blood flow and perfusion). A doctor does not need to know it unless they plan on research.

    That being said, calculus is an extremely powerful tool and can open up a world full of problems that absolutely cannot be solved any other way. But as an engineering major/math minor I guess I'm biased.

    Of course I think calculus has gotten a bad rap, and I think most people who have taken it would tell you that it was not as hard as they thought it would be.

    ------------------
    "There is nothing more powerful on this Earth as a man who has nothing to lose. It does not take ten such men to change the world--one will do." Elijah Mohammed
     
  9. s-pish

    s-pish Member

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    baylor21,

    Sorry to deviate from the topic of calculus, but since you're an engineering major, I have a quick question. Do adcomms view engineering candidates unfavorably since engineering majors usually do not have an opportunity to take as many liberal arts courses as other pre-meds? It appears from some of the information that I have been seeing is that adcomms prefer candidates who have a strong liberal arts background.

    Thanks for any feedback.
     
  10. KeithKow

    KeithKow Member

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    speaking of ND calculus...boy do i miss Prof. Peterson. that guy was the man! i think he smoked up before class. and you gotta respect the shag look.
     
  11. s-pish

    s-pish Member

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    Sorry KeithKow, I don't know Prof Peterson. I'm actually a nerdy chemical engineering major/pre-med hopeful. I know one other dude in sorin who is also a cheg/pre-med major.

    By the way, I do remember my professor from Calc III and IV who looked like Skeletor from the He-Man cartoons.
     
  12. mvalento

    mvalento Senior Member

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    I'm actually a nerdy chemical engineering major/pre-med hopeful.

    you got that right, pishko. but perhaps we should stick to the topic at hand: calculus and impracticality in a pre-med curriculum. you'd be better off learning spanish- or microbiology- or biochemistry- or embryology- or more literature- or anthropology- or human evolution- in my humble opinion.

    warren wong is the man!

     
  13. Arti

    Arti Member

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    Having calculus will definetly help when it comes to looking your best on the application for the reasons I listed in my previous post.But it is so important to have medical related xperience, esspecialy if you are a engineering major. Since engeerining is very difficult major, most people assume you get to do nothing but math and physics during those four years, you will have to show adcoms that you did volunteer work and extracuricular acivities in order to show them that you are more than just your grades.

    Arti
     
  14. s-pish

    s-pish Member

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    Fine mvalento, I'll stick to the topic. (As a biologist, shouldn't you be experimenting with different plants to smoke?)

    If calculus is so impratical, then what about physics? Do doctors really need to know about interference patterns through a narrow slit or how to calculate the distance an object appears through a concave lens? Besides for the MCAT.

    Sorry almost forgot, thanks for the reply Arti. I agree with your point that engineers, just like everyone else, do have to demonstrate a dedication to medicine.
    [This message has been edited by s-pish (edited 08-03-2000).]

    [This message has been edited by s-pish (edited 08-03-2000).]
     
  15. KeithKow

    KeithKow Member

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    would that be Scott Gabler?
     
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  17. limit

    limit Molesting my inner-child

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    People, Calculus is the stepping stone to half of the other pre-med classes. Without it, you can't handle physics (calculus based - the REAL college physics), chemistry (which requires logs, basic differential equations and other calculus related material), physical chemistry (which some students end up taking) is very heavy on calculus math, engineering and technical electives, and just basic reasoning and understanding of slopes on GRAPHS (which you will see in medical research)

    With all due respect, I think this topic is rediculous. Calculus is a very important subject, and a basic understanding of it is crucial... Anyone can count on their fingers.

    My two cents.
     
  18. moo

    moo 1K Member

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    I'm assuming that most of you biology majors out there hate calculus. The key to this subject is to do lots of problems. Then everything becomes pretty much routine. Sure, calculus doesn't have much to do with medicine directly, but it's important in truly understanding the underlying principles of physics and chemistry.

    Baylor21, you are absolutely right! I am doing a rigorous physics/math honors program and I have to take everything from advanced calculus to PDEs to complex variables and abstract algebra. Without the advanced math, I will not be able to understand a lot of the theory behind the physics that I learn. And it is this satisfaction, the UNDERSTANDING and not just the KNOWING of the subject matter that is truly rewarding.

     
  19. hakioawa

    hakioawa Junior Member

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    Calculus gets a bad rap!

    Having taken a lot of math, physics and chemistry I will tell you that essentially no modern science can be understood at anything beyond an introductory level with out an understanding of calculus.

    In medicine things such as osmisis, diffusion of chemicals, blood pressure and circulation, bacterial growth rates, drug concentrations and radiological tracers all can only fully be understood with calculus and differential equations.

    I don't think memorizing what the integral of exp(x^2) is all that important, but understanding how calculus fits into all modern science critical.

    Erik
     
  20. moo

    moo 1K Member

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    Just a side note, hakioawa... It is impossible to express the integral of exp(x^2) in terms of elementary functions.
     
  21. hakioawa

    hakioawa Junior Member

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    I'm glad someone caught that!
     
  22. It is true that some schools may look slightly unfavorably upon engineering majors because as all engineering majors know... they make us take math,science and dont leave us any room in our schedules to take anything else!

    However, I have tried to take extra courses in the humanities (e.g. Philosophy in Medicine, History of East Asia, World Religions, etc) to throw off this perception of me being into math and science and nothing else.



    ------------------
    "There is nothing more powerful on this Earth as a man who has nothing to lose. It does not take ten such men to change the world--one will do." Elijah Mohammed
     
  23. joe__d

    joe__d Junior Member

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    engineering boys and girls....(ie "limit" guy)

    a. you don't need "real" physics to do well on the mcat or get in....

    b. if one is taking physical chemistry good for you but i'll stay the hell away cuz it doesn't have a whole hell of a lot to do w med
     
  24. I hated calculus. Somehow I recieved a B and I really had no clue as to what I was doing. We had a teacher fresh out of graduate school and had no idea how to teach. I remember taking about the rate that bacteria grows and used calculus to determine rates like that, so maybe that is how it is useful for a doctor. I am great in math, but this class had me grasping at straws. I'm taking the regular Physics cause I didn't learn enough to make me comfortable taking the calculus based physics.
     
  25. limit

    limit Molesting my inner-child

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    joe___d, non-calculus based physics is for high school kids, you can't escapce the REAL physics (although not quite necessary for the MCAT). You will need calculus to solve problems eventually, unless your undergrad is so weak that you take a BS easy physics course and cruise with an A (I hate those kinds of schools, makes people who study their butts off day in and day out for an A- look inferior... just not fair).

    2) physical chemistry is looked very highly upon my med schools. If one does not so great on organic (or even if one does), it is always a good idea to tackle physical chem to show you are ready to take on med school classes.
     
  26. fiatslug

    fiatslug Senior Member
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    While you're taking Calc 3 and P-Chem, you could also start wearing a hairshirt and engage in ritual self-flogging in the quad!
     
  27. Mango

    Mango Very Senior Member

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    Nice one Slug!

    Hey, just a word of advice. I tested out of my schools required math course, as well as Calc I (due to AP class). So I took ZERO math classes during undergrad. Also, the classes I tested out of did NOT appear on my transcript.

    When I applied to med schools, I started noticing that some of them required a year of math! I thought I was screwed. So I called a dean and asked him what was up. He said, if my MCAT scores (specifically Phys. Sci.) were high enough, that the school would know that I knew enough math to be accepted. I of course said how high is high enough? And he didn't answer me.

    In the end I was accepted to four schools, three of which required calculus, and two which REQUIRED a full year of college math. Catch my drift? Nothing is set in stone, don't let people convince you it is. Incidentally, a PS score of 10 was aparently enough.
     
  28. moo

    moo 1K Member

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    limit,

    Do you know if Thermal Physics is looked upon equivalently by med schools? I'm a physics major and I had to take this instead of phys chem. The two are equivalent so I can't take phys chem now. In fact thermal physics (the course I took) is supposed to be harder than phys chem because we focus almost entirely on proofs of the various theorems. (By the way, I got an A in it)
     

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