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Calculus based physics Vs. algebra based physics 
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#1
Feb1808, 08:52 AM

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in my high school physics class we are doing algebra baced physics but i have heard of calculus based physics and i wanted to know the differences between them and the different Applications that they have.



#2
Feb1808, 12:14 PM

P: 863

Algebra based physics is learning physics that pretty much only uses algebra (some trig). Calculus based physics uses calculus.
So basically your class is an intro to calc based physics. You learn all the concepts of physics without messing around with all the math. If you don't know any calculus, then it will be hard to explain the benefits of it. But if you've taken calculus, then it should be pretty obvious what it can be used for. Let me try to explain anyway, because that didn't really answer your question. Calculus lets you "add up" small contributions to get a total. For example, you have your equation for how long an object stays in the air when you throw it, right? There should be a variable there that is squared. In one of those formulas, anyway. So the only way you can do that right now is to use the formula. With calculus, you start with something more basic, and you can actually derive the formula. Okay, that was a bad explanation. Umm... just wait until someone gives you a better one. :( 


#3
Feb1808, 12:28 PM

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Adding calculus to Physics I, at least at the level of Halliday, Resnick, and Walker, results in hardly any new physics being taught. For instance in algebra based physics, you take the following formula as given:
[tex]x(t)=x_0+v_0t+\frac{1}{2}at^2[/tex] In calc based physics you derive that formula by integrating [itex]\frac{d^2x}{dt^2}=a[/itex] twice. Kinematics with nonconstant acceleration is relegated to the Exercises. What really makes calc based Physics I different from algebra based Physics I is not the calculus, but the use of the dot and cross products (most algebra based physics courses don't teach this). Now when you get to Physics II, the calculus makes a huge difference, because you can finally learn Maxwell's equations. 


#4
Feb1808, 12:40 PM

P: 792

Calculus based physics Vs. algebra based physics
I suppose for physics I, calculus makes little difference, as what is derived by calc, can often be derived alebraicly too, but calc is probably simpler. Without calculus you can't go very far in physics. Or just about anything that uses math business, engineering, social sciences etc.



#5
Feb1808, 12:47 PM

P: 4

I've been told that algebra based physics is an ugly mess whereas calc based physics is nice, elegant, and actually easier. This was told to me by my precalc teacher.



#6
Feb1808, 01:19 PM

P: 863

Not really. Neither of them are really a mess. Algebrabased physics is actually simplified from calc physics, but calc physics has the advantage of using more elegant notation.



#7
Feb1808, 01:23 PM

P: 487

in algebra based phys, you let the partition of finite difference and summation goes to 0, you will get a calculus based physics. Nothing else more than that



#8
Feb1808, 02:30 PM

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thharrimw, This enhancement of details is how physics education progresses. You will learn some simple aspect of a problem at one level, such as the behavior of a particle subject to a constant acceleration. Calculusbased physics throws out all those seemingly unrelated formulae you learned in algebrabased physics, replacing them with a smaller set of more abstract and more mathematically advanced equations. Junior level classical dynamics throws that simple freshmanbased physics out the window. Graduate level courses throw out the simple junior level stuff. I have not yet touched on electricity, or quantum mechanics, or gravitation. The same processes occur there that occur with classical dynamics. Each step up you are learning some new physics. You are also relearning the physics you already know, but with the added twist of mathematical techniques that you presumably did not have knowledgeof the first time around. 


#9
Feb1808, 02:48 PM

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D H,
Yes, Halliday and Resnick & Co. have watered their book down considerably since the old days. I once saw an early edition of their book that showed a derivation of the differential form of Maxwell's equations from the integral form. Now, only the integral form remains and the differential form isn't even mentioned. 


#10
Feb1908, 08:14 AM

P: 115

ok all of this has made me more confused,
What is derivation? What is a differential form? and What is a integral form? also in calc baced physics can you use these differntial and integral things and do more then you could if you used algebra equations? 


#11
Feb1908, 08:33 AM

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Algebrabased physics is chock full of a bunch of disparate, adhoc formulae that must be memorized. Many of these adhoc formulae can be derived from a small set of seemingly simple equations. In algebrabased physics, the expression [itex]x=x_0 + v_0 t + 1/2at^2[/itex] is one of those adhoc forumulae. It can be derived from [itex]d^2x/dt^2 = a[/itex], which in turn is a consequence of Newton's second law. Another example is Kepler's laws. You probably had to memorize these as equations that just popped out of the blue in Kepler's mind. Kepler's laws are the result of deeper physics and more advanced math. 


#12
Feb1908, 09:10 AM

P: 115

I haven't had calc but I get the concept now even though I have no idea how to do the math!Are there rules for differential and integral forms like there are in algebra? If so what are they?



#13
Feb1908, 09:31 AM

P: 202

if it's a toss up between a decent teacher teaching the calc based, and a crappy teacher teaching the algebra based, take the calc based.
to make a long story short, during my freshman year, I took the algebra based physics course, struggled and got a C. Then I toook the calc based physics, didn't struggle, and got a B. I was taking calc at the same time as physics, and didn't get held up by the calc... guess that's it....best of luck with you decision. 


#14
Feb1908, 09:32 AM

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Why do educators still teach algebrabased physics when they could simply teach the calculus mathematics first, then afterwards go straight to calculusbased physics? It saves the trouble of having to memorise equations when doing algebrabased physics.



#15
Feb1908, 09:38 AM

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The "rules" for differential forms come from the divergence theorem and Stokes' theorem.
[tex]\int_V {\nabla \cdot \vec{F}} = \int_{\partial V} {\vec{F} \cdot d\vec{S}}[/tex] and [tex]\int_S {\nabla \times \vec{F}} = \int_{\partial S} {\vec{F} \cdot d\vec{l}}[/tex] Which allow you to switch from differential and integral forms. Of course, you'll have no idea what this means. 


#16
Feb1908, 09:42 AM

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#17
Feb1908, 10:06 AM

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Curriculum for high school or college? Calculus is an essential mathematical tool for just about every scientific, engineering field. And why don't require it when just about every student in high school is going to have to learn calculus anyway, unless they've chosen to major in the arts and literature?



#18
Feb1908, 11:15 AM

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Now for college... I agree calculus is essential for science and engineering... but, as you've observed, not for a major in the arts and literature.... although it does help round out a student in a liberal arts institution. In addition, I would guess that there are more nonscience majors than sciencemajors in college. So, there is a need for an algebrabased class.... although in an ideal scientificallyminded world there would only be a calculusbased one. I was at one school that had three levels of introductory calculusbased physics... for bio and premed majors, for chem majors, and for physics and math majors. I guess that school saw the need to give the appropriate attention depending on the needs of the student, as well as the resources to devote to it. In a similar way, some schools will have algebrabased and calculusbased intended for less and morescientific majors. 


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