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An easy textbook means I feel unprepared

  1. May 13, 2012 #1
    I'm currently about to finish (next week!) my lower division physics classes and move on to the upper division courses while transferring from a junior college to UCLA. I feel utterly and completely unprepared for what lies ahead.

    I feel like the textbook we used (Fundamentals of Physics, 9th Ed) grossly oversimplified the mathematics that should be used for these courses. Is this a normal feeling since I'm transferring in the Fall and I have no idea what to expect, or should I really be worried?

    I'm going to work through Boas' Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences book over the Summer with my fellow physics majors, are there any other books you would recommend reading / working through before moving on to the upper division courses?

  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2012 #2
    Can't go far wrong with Boas. It's what I use, covers pretty much everything you'll need in an undergrad theory degree. I also use Riley, Hobson & Bence (Mathematical methods for physics and engineering). It's a bit less dry compared to Boas and is great for introducing yourself to topics although i'd say Boas is perhaps more detailed/rigourous.

    If you're wanting to brush up a bit on the funamentals focus on topics like vector calculus, LA and PDEs. If you're going to be doing more advanced courses you might want to look at calculus of variations and a bit of complex analysis (contour integrals etc).
  4. May 13, 2012 #3
    If you're unprepared, it is not because of the math as long as the course was calculus based. The point of an introductory physics sequence is not to learn advanced math - it's to learn the physics and problem solving.
  5. May 13, 2012 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    Fundamentals of Physics (Halliday/Resnick/Walker) is a very common textbook for the calculus-based intro physics sequence, and is typical of the level used in those courses. I used it myself in freshman physics forty years ago (when it was just Halliday/Resnick), and I ended up with a Ph.D.
  6. May 14, 2012 #5
    Thanks for the replies, everyone. You've helped to calm my transfer nerves. :-p
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