Firstly, I apologize if this is off-topic here. I looked in the help center and I didn't see anything that specifically said questions relating to education were off-limits here.

I want to know if I should continue trying to soldier through my calculus class, or if I should look for other options.

I am a student in the USA and I am working to get a bachelors degree in Computer Science. However, some years ago I was diagnosed with a math disability.

I have been given double-time on exams, and it helps. However, I am still struggling to understand the material in the first place.

I am currently taking Calculus 1, which I must pass with a C-grade to take Calculus 2. Both of these classes are required, and the Computer Science department doesn't allow students to design their own degrees.

I have previously passed my precalculus class with a C. It was probably the most difficult class I've completed so far. I had to prioritize studying it, and my grades in other classes suffered.

I admit I don't like Calculus. Math has always been my least-favorite subject, and the one I am forced to spend the most time on. Currently I often work from 9:00 am to 8:00 or 10:00. Even so, most of my work is graded F.

Even so, while my precalculus class was four-credits, my calculus 1 class is five-credits, and seems to take more than twice as much time as my precalculus class did. I will also have to take another two-credit calculus 2 class afterwards to complete the math portion of my major. I know my college isn't obliged to waive my calculus class, and I am looking at different options.

However, I love programming, and I don't want to transfer to another major. So, I want know what you guys think. I have already transferred colleges twice, so this is my third college. Assuming the dean of Computer Science (who has a PHD in Mathematics) doesn't let me replace my Calculus classes with other coursework, what should I do?

Would I be unemployable without Calculus? How cheap and reputable are degrees from online colleges? Could I ascertain whether they'd waive any otherwise-required calculus course beforehand? What could I do that would improve the chances of the Dean of Computer Science allowing me to switch the courses for other ones?

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    Have you asked for any accommodations for your math disability?
    – mkennedy
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 0:48
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    Perhaps you should have considered the Academia Stack...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 7:01
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    Just wanted to say that I am one of the people who got a degree in something that was not computer science, and still easily got a job as a full time developer right out of uni. I know people who were in a similar situation who switched to my course (forensic computing) midway through the year as the credits were transferable. Would be worth looking around your college and seeing what other computing degrees they do, as they won't all need maths. I'm awful with anything math related too!
    – Uciebila
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 9:57
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    "diagnosed with a math disability" .. "Math has always been my least-favorite subject" if you want a totally honest opinion survey, I'd say you will struggle with programming. As everyone has said there is so much programming work around, you will be able to work "in programming" likely no problem, but, you will struggle / hate some stuff :O
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 12:54
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    Ok, so the biggest obstacle to doing any kind of maths is time and the second biggest obstacle is confidence. If you don't have confidence (e.g. have been told that you are bad at maths) then it can be very hard or impossible to make headway because it becomes harder for you to believe that you can understand the content and therefore you are less inclined to spend the time/effort understanding the content..... TLDR maths is hard (for everyone) and you won't progress unless you spend time on it. Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 21:12

4 Answers 4


Do you have an academic advisor?

Do you have a diagnosis from a medical professional attesting to your math disability?

If so, you should speak with your advisor directly, bringing proof of your learning disability diagnosis. Then you should go through the Student Handbook together and review what your rights are, and what accommodations your university will make for you. Your advisor should be able to help you get the information you need. An advisor might also be able to help you find a tutor who specializes in working with people with your particular disability, if your university does not have an on-campus tutoring office. If your university has an on-campus mental health center, I'd also reach out to them to ask for some advice on how they've seen the university accommodate a variety of mental health issues in students, as it may give you some ideas for next steps.

If you're interested in less math-focused coursework, try Computer Information Systems (CIS) instead of Computer Science (assuming your university offers that program.)

  • Thank you! I have both an academic advisor and a diagnosis. Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 3:42

A computer science degree is not required to find work in programming!

While it does help at certain companies and sounds fancy, it would be better to study a field that interests you most in software development.

Mathematical understanding is indeed needed to a certain degree but unless you work in specialized fields, high school maths should be more than enough to write most software.

You should switch to another degree with less math requirements the very least if it's such a burden for you that it endangers your degree to become basically worthless.

  • Thank you! What sort of degree would allow me to program for a living without being so heavy on math? Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 1:03
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    @LuminousNutria that depends on your field(s) of interest. There are too many to be honest. Narrow it down and ask your professor or the university dean. It also helps to check job postings for your preferred subjects and see what the qualification requirements are or ask programmers in the field you'd like to get into. Keep in mind though, if you have experience and / or demonstrate sucessful projects, you might not even need a degree to gain employment. Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 1:12

A Computer Science degree is not required to have a programming job. Some of the best programmers I've known have had other degrees or even no degree at all.

That said, you have some options (in no particular order).

  1. Take your Calculus courses at another school. Most 4 year universities will transfer credits from community colleges. I've known several people that satisfied language or math requirements this way. The course work might be easier, it might not. Discuss with your academic advisor to see if it's an option.
  2. Get tutoring. One-on-one instruction might help you to understand the concepts. The department probably has some tutoring available for free, but you can also pay for private tutoring.
  3. Change majors. Often the Business school offers a programming degree option that is less Calculus intensive (it may substitute Statistics). I've known very strong programmers that have degrees from their University's Business school.
  4. Explore your options without a degree. A degree is one metric companies use to assess your qualifications. But if you can acquire the skills outside of school and convince future employers that you have them, maybe you won't need a degree. (If you take this path and it doesn't work, you can return to school).
  • Thank you! I am worried about my ability to get a job without a degree. I think I've heard that some companies will automatically reject resumes without the requisite degree Commented Feb 24, 2019 at 3:50

I don't mind working outside the game industry, but would I be unemployable without Calculus?

Certainly you'll be employable without it, but there are mental leaps you make in calculus that exercise the same parts of your brain that you will likely need to be excellent at programming. To be blunt, if your brain is having difficulty grasping calculus, you may end up a mediocre programmer. Don't let this discourage you though, you can still be a very productive and profitable programmer in this way. You just may struggle with comprehension of data structures and algorithms. Things will likely seem like a black-box for a long time.

How cheap and reputable are degrees from online colleges?

Reasonably cheap. Reasonably reputable. Depends on the institution. Most CS programs will still require calculus.

Could I ascertain whether they'd waive any otherwise-required calculus course beforehand?

You could try, but it's unlikely. Calculus seems to be a staple of higher education.

What could I do that would improve the chances of the Dean of Computer Science allowing me to switch the courses for other ones?

Honestly, not much. For anything short of a prodigy the Dean (or other professor) is unlikely to make any sorts of exceptions for something so commonplace.

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    "Most CS programs will still require calculus" - why is that? It makes no sense to me
    – Mawg
    Commented Feb 25, 2019 at 11:29
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    A couple reasons. One, as I said in the post, is "there are mental leaps you make in calculus that exercise the same parts of your brain that you will likely need to be excellent at programming." The other is having an understanding of asymptotic levels of complexity is essentially the same as integral calculus (and indeed uses calculus in its computation.) Remember, CS is not programming - CS is the math and theory that powers computers. Programming is a much more practical art. If you're going to study CS, you should be taking calculus.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 5:01
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    A good explanation. Thanks and upvote. I think though that "there are mental leaps you make in calculus that exercise the same parts of your brain that you will likely need to be excellent at programming" (which contradicts "Remember, CS is not programming" ;-) is nothing other than someone's opinion. I.e. are there any studies to back that? This is probably just my prejudice, as I did not need to study calculus for my Comp. Sci. degree, and *cough* decades later I am still employed as a developer & have never missed it -->
    – Mawg
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 7:27
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    --> Back in my day popular wisdom said that you had to be good as maths to be good at programming. There was some slight truth in that then, but not much, and not much now, apart from a few specialized niches. I still take issue though, with calculus/statistics/maths being a requirement. A recommended subsidiary at most, I would say (YKmMV)
    – Mawg
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 7:30
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    @Mawg Aboslutely there is, it's called Brodmann area 10. It is responsible for, on one side (the right side), mathematical reasoning and on the other side (the left side), logical reasoning. This is not simply an opinion, it is the current understanding of that area of the brain (which, admittedly, is the least understood part due to its complexity.)
    – corsiKa
    Commented Feb 27, 2019 at 18:10

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