3 Math and 3 Physics Classes in the same semester?

  • Thread starter ahsanxr
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  • #1
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Hello all, I've been thinking about/planning my classes for my third semester at college. So far here are the ones I have in mind with their descriptions:

Intro Physics III - Electricity and Magnetism: Electrostatics, circuits, electric and magnetic fields; electromagnetic waves.

Classical Mechanics: Statics and dynamics of particles and rigid bodies treated with extensive use of vector calculus; includes the Lagrangian formulation of mechanics.

Elementary Lab I: Selected experiments in mechanics, heat, electricity and magnetism, optics, and modern physics. One lecture hour and four laboratory hours per week.

Basic Real Analysis: Concentrates on proving the basic theorems of calculus, with due attention to the beginner with little or no experience in the techniques of proof. Includes limits, continuity, differentiability, the Bolzano-Weierstrass theorem, Taylor's theorem, integrability of continuous functions, and uniform convergence.

Survey of Algebra: Surveys major topics of modern algebra: groups, rings, and fields. Presents applications to areas such as geometry and number theory; explores rational, real, and complex number systems, and the algebra of polynomials.

Advanced Calculus: Includes vector analysis, Green's, Stokes', divergence theorems, conservation of energy, and potential energy functions. Emphasizes physical interpretation, Sturm-Liouville problems and Fourier series, special functions, orthogonal polynomials, and Green's functions.

Alright so now that I have the courses I'm considering listed, here is what I have in mind for my degree. I'm pursuing a BS in Physics along with a BA in Mathematics with the most rigorous programs offered by my school in both (the BS in Physics and the Grad-school preparation for Math). So my main concern is whether this is doable or if its just overkill and would result in a burnout. My original plan was 4 of these 6 courses along with a "fun" course but when I found out that the same professor who's teaching us our Physics course this semester is teaching Classical Mechanics, I really started thinking about taking that too (great professor and really helpful in office hours). I talked to him about it and he said that its doable in the third semester (normally done in fifth) if you have the math background, but the one extra year of Physics experience gained helps a lot if you do it in the fifth semester. For math, I'm still considering whether I should do 3 or 2. So in your guys' opinions whats the difficulty of these classes like. I don't wanna overly burden myself because that way I won't be really learning the stuff and would just be wanting to get over with it. So should I cut down on a Math or Physics course? Which one do you think it should be if yes? If no, will this load kill me and not allow me to actually learn whats going on, or will it be fine and be just something normal expected from a Physics/Math major?

Here's my Physics/Math background for more info:

First semester: Intro Physics I: "Mechanics and Special Relativity", Calculus II, Linear Algebra
Second (present) semester: Intro Physics II: "Gravitation, Oscillations, Waves, Thermodynamics", Calculus III, Ordinary Differential Equations, Fundamentals of Scientific Computing.

PS, I've heard horror stories about Elementary Lab and how it takes hours and hours to write lab reports. How much truth is there to that?

Your answers/suggestions are truly appreciated.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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It can probably be done, but I hope you weren't planning on having a social life, or a job. With a schedule like that, practically all of your time will be doing physics and math.

The lab course will vary from school to school I'm sure, but at my school, the "Intermediate Physics Lab" class has VERY long lab reports, and they're expected to be of journal quality. Each lab report for that class takes easily 10-15 hours to write, sometimes more. But, at your university, it might be different.
 
  • #3
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It really depends on your background and level of intellect but for an average math/physics student this is a NIGHTMARE! taking 6 courses may not be very difficult but the courses that you listed are very difficult to take at the same time. For example the abstract algebra course that you listed was one of the most difficult math courses I ever took. Also, real analysis and classical mechanics are better understood after advanced calculus.
 
  • #4
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It depends on the person. I'm also a math/physics double major and have taken 6-7 math or physics courses per semester for the past 5 semesters. I work a lot more than most of my friends - I am typically in the library until midnight on most weeknights - but it isn't unmanageable. I did not take nearly as many classes my freshman year and I found that not having work to do all the time made me procrastinate which made me do poorly. When I'm kept busy all the time I work much harder and get better grades across the board. Other people experience the opposite effect. So, it is just something that you need to try.
 
  • #5
350
6
It can probably be done, but I hope you weren't planning on having a social life, or a job. With a schedule like that, practically all of your time will be doing physics and math.

The lab course will vary from school to school I'm sure, but at my school, the "Intermediate Physics Lab" class has VERY long lab reports, and they're expected to be of journal quality. Each lab report for that class takes easily 10-15 hours to write, sometimes more. But, at your university, it might be different.
As for a having a job and social life are concerned, this semester I'm taking 5 courses (Calc III, Diff Eq, Intro Physics III, Scientific Computing and English Writing) which is technically an "overload" and I'm still finding time to work around 10-14 hours a week, go to the gym, hang out/have long dinners with friends quite frequently. As long as I can still do that maybe with the frequency of all 3 reduced, I'll be fine. I don't see a girlfriend happening any time soon especially if I keep taking all these male dominated classes :P

It really depends on your background and level of intellect but for an average math/physics student this is a NIGHTMARE! taking 6 courses may not be very difficult but the courses that you listed are very difficult to take at the same time. For example the abstract algebra course that you listed was one of the most difficult math courses I ever took. Also, real analysis and classical mechanics are better understood after advanced calculus.
The "Survey of Algebra" course I'm assuming is a very elementary introduction to abstract algebra because on the course listings, there's also a 5000-level class (this one is 3000-level) called "Introduction to Abstract Algebra" which has a pretty similar description. Similarly there's also a 5000-level class called "Introduction to Real Analysis" (Basic Real Analysis is 3000-level). So I think these 2 math classes are intended to be fairly elementary introductions to both subjects. (The math department says that the 3000-level courses should be taken as preparation for the 5000 ones).

It depends on the person. I'm also a math/physics double major and have taken 6-7 math or physics courses per semester for the past 5 semesters. I work a lot more than most of my friends - I am typically in the library until midnight on most weeknights - but it isn't unmanageable. I did not take nearly as many classes my freshman year and I found that not having work to do all the time made me procrastinate which made me do poorly. When I'm kept busy all the time I work much harder and get better grades across the board. Other people experience the opposite effect. So, it is just something that you need to try.
Yes, I know what you mean. I just tend to sit around/do nothing if I don't have enough work to do, instead of making a good use of my free time. So have you had any similar semesters class-wise? How has life outside of Math/Physics been (if it exists :P)?

Thanks for all of your responses and more opinions are welcome.
 
  • #6
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Yes, I know what you mean. I just tend to sit around/do nothing if I don't have enough work to do, instead of making a good use of my free time. So have you had any similar semesters class-wise? How has life outside of Math/Physics been (if it exists :P)?
My worst semester I took quantum mechanics 1, junior level E&M, mathematical physics, statistical mechanics, honors prob/stat, abstract algebra, TA training, undergrad research, undergrad physics seminar, and I was TAing a differential equations course. This turned out to be way too much - I was pulling 3 or so all nighters a month, was very frequently working until 2-3 AM, and my social life essentially only existed between Friday night and Sunday morning. I was an awful TA since I never had time to prepare lectures until about 30 minutes before I taught. I struggled to spend 10 hours a week in the lab I worked in, etc. That was a very terrible semester - I don't recommend doing that much. I somehow emerged with all A's, but I only think it was because I work very hard when I have lots of work. That was the only semester I tried TAing - I think that was the tipping point in work load.

In semesters where I wasn't TAing, I've enjoyed college a lot. I'm in a social fraternity, spend weekends partying (sometimes during the week...), have a girlfriend (who goes to the same school as me), a couple of hobbies, etc. I still probably have less of social life than most people, but I'm at least living evidence that you don't have to completely sacrifice your social life to do well in school. I don't lose much sleep, either - I've found that if I manage my time well, getting 8 hours of sleep is more effective towards getting work done than getting 5 hours and working for 3 hours more.
 
  • #7
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Hey OP,

I have no doubt you attend UVA (seeing the courses you mentioned). I'm also a math major, planning to take Advanced Linear Algebra, Survey of Algebra, Basic Real Analysis, Symbolic logic, and intro programming.

That said, I've heard survey of algebra and basic real analysis are two very difficult core math classes, so I'm not sure if taking them along with 4 other heavy classes is a good idea.

18 credits won't afford you much time for anything else....but you know your own abilities better than I do. I know a schedule like that would kill me.

Just a question, how did you take linear algebra your first semester, considering calc II was a prerequisite?
 
  • #8
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6
My worst semester I took quantum mechanics 1, junior level E&M, mathematical physics, statistical mechanics, honors prob/stat, abstract algebra, TA training, undergrad research, undergrad physics seminar, and I was TAing a differential equations course. This turned out to be way too much - I was pulling 3 or so all nighters a month, was very frequently working until 2-3 AM, and my social life essentially only existed between Friday night and Sunday morning. I was an awful TA since I never had time to prepare lectures until about 30 minutes before I taught. I struggled to spend 10 hours a week in the lab I worked in, etc. That was a very terrible semester - I don't recommend doing that much. I somehow emerged with all A's, but I only think it was because I work very hard when I have lots of work. That was the only semester I tried TAing - I think that was the tipping point in work load.

In semesters where I wasn't TAing, I've enjoyed college a lot. I'm in a social fraternity, spend weekends partying (sometimes during the week...), have a girlfriend (who goes to the same school as me), a couple of hobbies, etc. I still probably have less of social life than most people, but I'm at least living evidence that you don't have to completely sacrifice your social life to do well in school. I don't lose much sleep, either - I've found that if I manage my time well, getting 8 hours of sleep is more effective towards getting work done than getting 5 hours and working for 3 hours more.
Holy **** that is A HUGE courseload for one semester. If you got through this, then what I have posted seems nothing compared to that! Its also a comforting fact that you still have a social life while being a double major in Physics in Math but from what I can see, your time management skills are probably much much better than mine. Also, how does being a TA as an undergraduate work?

Hey OP,

I have no doubt you attend UVA (seeing the courses you mentioned). I'm also a math major, planning to take Advanced Linear Algebra, Survey of Algebra, Basic Real Analysis, Symbolic logic, and intro programming.

That said, I've heard survey of algebra and basic real analysis are two very difficult core math classes, so I'm not sure if taking them along with 4 other heavy classes is a good idea.

18 credits won't afford you much time for anything else....but you know your own abilities better than I do. I know a schedule like that would kill me.

Just a question, how did you take linear algebra your first semester, considering calc II was a prerequisite?
Yes, I'm at UVA! Your courseload seems pretty legit too for your third semester (I'm assuming) as a math major. To be honest, I haven't really met any first year math majors around here other then the couple of people in my Physics who are doing both, so its great to see that they exist :P. I actually wanna take Symbolic Logic at some point too but I'm not sure whether I would have any room for it next semester though. What math courses did you do/are you doing this year?

About Survey and Basic, I have a friend who did Survey last semester (he's a third year transfer from China) and Basic this semester and said that both are very easy classes. I trust his opinion. I also attended the first couple of weeks of Survey this semester and it didn't seem all that hard judging from the syllabus etc. Both of them are intended to be introductions to the subjects of Abstract Algebra and Real Analysis for someone who hasn't had experience in proofs. Advanced LA seems to be more rigorous though. (Btw, its 19 credits not 18 since Intro Physics III is a 4-credit class).

To answer your question, I already knew that Linear Algebra makes almost no use of calculus at all, and I just enrolled in the class. No one ever asked me whether I had taken Calc II or not.
 
  • #9
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Holy **** that is A HUGE courseload for one semester. If you got through this, then what I have posted seems nothing compared to that! Its also a comforting fact that you still have a social life while being a double major in Physics in Math but from what I can see, your time management skills are probably much much better than mine. Also, how does being a TA as an undergraduate work?
Well my time management skills only appeared out of necessity! I was a huge slacker freshman year - I took as few hours as possible (actually dropped a course second semester which made me technically not a full time student), and even then I wasn't doing half the homework for my classes because I was so lazy. It wasn't until the start of my sophomore year that I decided to shape up.

My school (Georgia Tech) lets undergrads be teaching assistants for math, computer science, chemistry, and physics. Possibly other departments as well - those are the only departments I know undergrad TAs in. I think it is out of necessity. This is an engineering school, so almost everyone takes the entire introductory calculus and physics sequence, and even liberal arts majors take survey of calculus and intro computer science. Thus, there aren't nearly enough graduate students to do all this teaching, so they hire undergrads as well.
 
  • #10
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That's awesome ahsanxr! Anyway, I haven't taken that many math classes actually. I'm in linear algebra, stat 212 and calc III this semester (it's probably a bad idea to put off ODE for too long but oh well).

Anyway, considering both of us haven't taken that many proof based courses, I think my three math classes (especially advanced linear algebra) will really screw me if I don't do some preparation. It would've been a good idea to take transition to higher math, but my schedule was tight. I'll probably read through a good proof-writing book over the summer.

I'm a little worried about real analysis. Apparently the professor is not so hot, and our text is the worst of its kind (Wade - received terrible reviews on Amazon).

But I'm really looking forward to Advanced Linear Algebra....I've heard great things about Mikhail Ershov.

Btw, do you have Kuhn or Sherman for calc III?
 
  • #11
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Sounds like suicide lol, I mean why do you have Classical Mech and E&M at the same time?
 
  • #12
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My worst semester I took quantum mechanics 1, junior level E&M, mathematical physics, statistical mechanics, honors prob/stat, abstract algebra, TA training, undergrad research, undergrad physics seminar, and I was TAing a differential equations course. This turned out to be way too much - I was pulling 3 or so all nighters a month, was very frequently working until 2-3 AM, and my social life essentially only existed between Friday night and Sunday morning. I was an awful TA since I never had time to prepare lectures until about 30 minutes before I taught. I struggled to spend 10 hours a week in the lab I worked in, etc. That was a very terrible semester - I don't recommend doing that much. I somehow emerged with all A's, but I only think it was because I work very hard when I have lots of work. That was the only semester I tried TAing - I think that was the tipping point in work load.

In semesters where I wasn't TAing, I've enjoyed college a lot. I'm in a social fraternity, spend weekends partying (sometimes during the week...), have a girlfriend (who goes to the same school as me), a couple of hobbies, etc. I still probably have less of social life than most people, but I'm at least living evidence that you don't have to completely sacrifice your social life to do well in school. I don't lose much sleep, either - I've found that if I manage my time well, getting 8 hours of sleep is more effective towards getting work done than getting 5 hours and working for 3 hours more.
:eek::eek:

I don't understand how some people can do this and have spare time!

I am taking 10 credit hours (PDE's, Discrete Math, Intro to Relativity and Quantum Mechanics) along with working 40-50 hours a week. Just that I have zero time to leave the house. And I usually get around 7 hours of sleep. Maybe my time management sucks.:confused:
 
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  • #13
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That's awesome ahsanxr! Anyway, I haven't taken that many math classes actually. I'm in linear algebra, stat 212 and calc III this semester (it's probably a bad idea to put off ODE for too long but oh well).

Anyway, considering both of us haven't taken that many proof based courses, I think my three math classes (especially advanced linear algebra) will really screw me if I don't do some preparation. It would've been a good idea to take transition to higher math, but my schedule was tight. I'll probably read through a good proof-writing book over the summer.

I'm a little worried about real analysis. Apparently the professor is not so hot, and our text is the worst of its kind (Wade - received terrible reviews on Amazon).

But I'm really looking forward to Advanced Linear Algebra....I've heard great things about Mikhail Ershov.

Btw, do you have Kuhn or Sherman for calc III?
Yeah thats true. Most of this year has been no proof writing at all and suddenly we (especially you) will be bombarded with proofs with the classes we're taking. But like you said, we have a good amount of time over the summer to prepare (I always say that though, but never do anything over the summer. Hopefully it'll be different this time around). I saw those reviews of Wade too and it seems sucky so I'll probably come here around summer time and ask for recommendations and hopefully get my hands on a good book and read it over the summer. My chinese friend who I was talking about earlier already gave me the Survey of Algebra book, so I plan to read that (at least a bit) too. I already had the guy who's teaching survey as a sub for my ODE class once and he seemed pretty decent and was funny. As for the analysis professor, I don't see any ratings/comments about him online.

I have Kuhn for Calc III although I don't even know why I go to that class :P

Sounds like suicide lol, I mean why do you have Classical Mech and E&M at the same time?
Its introductory E&M not the kind you study study your third year or something. Classical Mechanics is although of that kind though.
 
  • #14
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:eek::eek:

I don't understand how some people can do this and have spare time!

I am taking 10 credit hours (PDE's, Discrete Math, Intro to Relativity and Quantum Mechanics) along with working 40-50 hours a week. Just that I have zero time to leave the house. And I usually get around 7 hours of sleep. Maybe my time management sucks.:confused:
If you're working 40 - 50 hours a week and managing your classes, I don't think you have bad time management skills at all.
 
  • #15
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I definitely would like more opinions on this courseload and its manageability.
 
  • #16
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Okay, here's my advice.

Do it. And if your impression after the first week is that it's impossible, you can drop one of your classes w/o penalty.
 
  • #17
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Okay, here's my advice.

Do it. And if your impression after the first week is that it's impossible, you can drop one of your classes w/o penalty.
Yes, that seems reasonable. And which Calc III are you in?
 
  • #18
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I have Sherman. Midterm on Thursday - still need to review change of variables....
 
  • #19
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I've never taken a physics class so I can't speak about physics classes or labs but I would caution you against thinking that those proof classes will be easy because your friend from China says they are easy.

Reading your math background, it sounds like this will be the first time take a proof class. In fact it looks like you will be taking two proof classes at the same time. Compared to calc 2, 3 and ODEs where you just churn out problems these classes will be a lot of challenging. I'm not sure if your linear algebra class was very theoretical or not; mine was theoretical and I thought the transition from calc type classes to linear algebra was difficult. It was the first time we went from churning out problems to proving properties about transformations or spaces and first time in doing proofs. I have to say that the transition to analysis was much more difficult.

Your friend from China might think it's easy because math education in other countries often start proofs a lot earlier. Try to find out what textbook will be used. One of the most common textbooks is Rudin (the one with the blue cover). It is quite a dense textbook; do not take it lightly.
 

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