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Algebra based physics first?

  1. May 6, 2015 #1
    Do you have to take algebra/trig based physics first in order to understand calculus based physics better? Or is algebra based physics even required for calculus based physics?
     
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  3. May 6, 2015 #2

    CalcNerd

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    If you have the math background (most engineering schools put you in Calc 1 as a freshman), you are expected to take the Calc based physics class and bypass the math lite physics course.

    Most of the material is the same, except you will derive the physics formulas (calc based) vs being given the formulas in the algebra/trig physics course.
     
  4. May 6, 2015 #3

    symbolipoint

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    NO! You may not learn very much from something called "introductory physics" or "elementary physics" if the prerequisites are Algebra 2 and just basic Trigonometry. You will learn much more from the real Physics series intended for the Math/Science/Engineering students. All of that "NO!" depends on actual course content, instruction length, and how deeply the topics are actually treated.
     
  5. May 6, 2015 #4
    Okay, haha. Thank you, didn't know that. :)
     
  6. May 6, 2015 #5

    symbolipoint

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    It is not, in fact, required. Applying algebra-based Physics on your own as a prerequisite may give you no realistic advantage; may not hurt, but not likely to be a boost either.

    Some members could have experiences which are contrary to what I have said. I myself have my own awareness which is limited in this case according to my own insights and experiences.
     
  7. Dec 18, 2015 #6
    Thank you! This was just what i wanted to know.
     
  8. Dec 18, 2015 #7
    I had a peculiar background when I entered college. I dropped out of high school in 9th grade. I started in college, community college to be exact, and placed in arithmetic. Long story short, I had Calculus 1 complete and knew calculus 2 up to but not including series. I had the choice to make. Either I start with Calculus based physics or algebra/ trigged based. I started with algebra based physics. The teacher was very hard, however, she explained well. The problems given to us were not plug and chugg. They required thinking on our part. Turns out it was the best decision i made. I learnt how to problem solve in her class and think outside the box. When I took Calculus based physics, I found it too easy, thanks to the instructor. So I used Kleppner and Kolenkow instead of the assigned classroom text.

    I never regretted my decision.

    To response to Symbol. The problems from a trig/algebra based book to not differ from standard introductory calculus based books, such as Serway, Halliday, and Giancolli. They were the exact same problems.
     
  9. Dec 18, 2015 #8
    Honestly Calculus based physics is mostly algebra based anyways. The only Calculus needed usually is some basic derivatives and integrals which you can learn in a week. So it'd just be a waste of your time to take algebra based physics unless you're at a community college that requires it (most unfortunately do).
     
  10. Dec 18, 2015 #9

    symbolipoint

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    NOT true in general. I took an intro/elementary Physics course which was simple Algebra2/Trig based, and a few years later took the regular Calculus-based Physics 1 for science & engineering majors. Very different courses. The algebra-based course did not need much analytical thinking. The calculus based course was much tougher, deeper, required great use of analytical thinking, everything much more detailed, and making intricate vector diagrams for forces and velocities. Having had the simpler algebra-trig based course meant nearly nothing for any kind of preparation for taking the regular Physics 1, calc based course.
     
  11. Dec 18, 2015 #10
    Maybe a difference in instructors? Our teacher never gave us problems to do from our assigned textbook. She made the problems herself. You could not google search the problems, she made sure of this. And no the problems from a typical intro Calculus based Physics book are the same as the ones in the Algebra based book. I should know, I took both courses.
     
  12. Dec 18, 2015 #11

    symbolipoint

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    Maybe a difference in instructors. Still, the exercise problems were absolutely not the same. Nearly all the exercises from the Physics 1 course were a much higher level of advancement than the exercises from the intro/elementary algebra-trig based course. The two courses were way too much a contrast.
    YOU were lucky to have who taught you.
    Do you know what it is like to study a demanding but not complicated course and earn an easy grade of A?
    Do you know what it is like to struggle hard for a far tougher course and never be sure if you will earn an F, D, or by some slim chance, a C ?

    Maybe a few decades ago makes a difference. Maybe the different type of institutions makes a difference. The two courses in particular did not compare.
     
  13. Dec 18, 2015 #12
    Yes, I chose to travel 1 hour and half to another college, which required me to ride a train and 2 busses to get there. The reason being, was that the linear algebra course i needed at my main college, did not emphasize proof writing. I went to the other school, I knew the teacher who taught this course was rigorous, was good mathematician in the mathematical circles, and who also taught at one of the most prestigious schools for 20 years. I struggled hard with the course, 2 hours of sleep for 3 months, only to receive a B. I am well aware of how it is to struggle with a course, and not know the outcome. I took calculus 1 with a professor who teaches grad school at UCLA and received a B, when i could have taken an easier teacher and got an A.

    The problems are the exact same. There is no thinking required for problems out of Giancoli: Physics for Scientist and Engineers, Serway: Physics for Scientist and Engineers, and Halliday/Resnick: Physics for Scientist and Engineers. I stand by my previous comments. There is no calculus in introductory mechanics from these book, they go over both algebraic and calculus derivations for the formulas. If the problems require calculus, it is usually simple integrals and derivatives. Ie find the acceleration of a particle given the equation of its position.

    Maybe you had problems grasping the material and in your mind, the problems were different because of the "mysticism" of the phrase CALCULUS that scares students. The problems are the same. I still see the block sliding from a plane problem, and the elevator problem in both books.
     
  14. Dec 18, 2015 #13

    symbolipoint

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    No. the level of the two courses were far too different. You were still lucky and had the right choices of instructors and textbooks. We each know our experiences and course content. Mine were different than yours.
     
  15. Dec 18, 2015 #14

    atyy

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    I rook algebra/trig based physics first. Till this day, I always think in terms of algebra/trig based physics, and I believe that is the correct way of thinking about calculus (divide everything into little triangles and rectangles).
     
  16. Dec 19, 2015 #15

    Drakkith

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    I started with a Calculus-based physics course personally. That doesn't really mean too much though, as we didn't actually use calculus to solve any of the problems. Not sure if that's normal, or if it's just because of where I'm going to school at. I remember that the problems were challenging for me and I found myself struggling to get through them much of the time.
     
  17. Dec 19, 2015 #16

    Student100

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    It's all going to be pretty much subjective. You can have a course that has you re-derive every result using calculus, or one that simply covers it and focuses on the problem solving. The course I took for intro mechanics used calculus to show the derivations, and then simply focused on solving problems. The most calculus intense sections we studied were moments of inertia and fluid dynamics if I remember right. That said, to really understand mechanics and many of the derivations you need to know more than basic calculus integrals/derivatives anyway (think simple harmonics and DiffQ's), however most universities assume you're taking calculus 1 or 2 concurrently and aren't really focusing on the math.

    Even the error analysis in the lab sections really depends on things like partial derivatives, but most students don't even know what that is when they take the first course in the sequence.

    Maybe this is backwards, maybe the introductory courses for physics majors go into more detail (I didn't take them, so I don't know, you would assume), or maybe focusing on the art of problem solving and applying the math is the right way to go. I think every professor/TA runs their intro courses a bit differently.

    The only benefit I see doing the Algebra based sequence first, is to gain some physical intuition and problem solving ability, but the majority of students will be fine jumping directly into the calculus based sequence. The delta between the two is small.
     
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