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Becoming proficient at math/physics

  1. Feb 11, 2016 #1
    I am new to these forums, and I apologize in advance if this is a ridiculous post, but I am 24 years old, currently an undergraduate student studying computer science (I took a few years off), and while I am able to remember formulas for my math classes for the short-term, I would really like to conceptualize the information. More specifically, I want to become proficient in mathematics. I was a C student in high school, have always struggled with math classes, but it wasn't until my current class, Calculus with Analytical Geometry I, that I started to really enjoy it. I want to have an advanced understanding of mathematics; how to learn it, how to apply it, etc..
    I do not have a history of naturally excelling in the maths and sciences, but I am willing to work.

    What I am asking is what resources (books, online resources, etc) can I someone with my background use to go back and begin to conceptualize even the most basic mathematical principles and concepts? I skated by Trig and Precal by memorizing the forumlas before exams and it worked fine. But I really want to understand the place math has in the natural world.

    I apologize again for the absurdity of this post, I am unfamiliar with mathematics and am struggling to ask this question as clearly and succinctly as possible.

    Thank you in advance for any suggestions!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 11, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome to PF!

    There are a couple of resources to look at initially:

    1) Khan's Academy - they cover many math topics and many introductory physics concepts

    2) MathIsPower4U - covers math from Algebra to Calculus I,II,II Linear Algebra and Differential Equations

    Since you are studying computer science, what areas of CS are you interested in most?
  4. Feb 12, 2016 #3
    I have heard about Khan Academy; does it do a decent job of keeping the material in perspective regarding its application, origin, etc?

    I will absolutely look in to your second suggestion as well.

    I have only recently gotten in to computer science (about 10 months ago). I was originally interested in basic web applications. However, I started developing a real interest in AI and Robotics. My most current interest is in cybersecurity, but I still have time to explore. I assume I will stick with either AI or cybersecurity.

    Thank you for those suggestions!
  5. Feb 12, 2016 #4


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    So what makes you think that the source of your problems is the lack of "resources"?

    Presumably, when you took your earlier math classes, you had textbooks (and other sources), and your math teachers weren't too terrible to severely cause your poor performance. So what makes you think that having more such "resources" will be different this time around?

    The fact that you think that memorizing formulas is the way to do physics and math, to me, IS the source of all this problem. You can't do math and physics that way. To paraphrase Mary Boas from her "Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences", the ONLY way to learn how to solve problems is to solve problems... repeatedly! Having more resources and references will not change anything unless you change your attitude.

  6. Feb 12, 2016 #5
    I am not sure how you came to the conclusion that I was unaware that my issue was how I was learning math. I felt I made it clear that I am, in fact, trying to change my "attitude" towards learning math. I apologize for not making that clear. I am also not sure why you believe that I am asking for "more" resources? I simply came here to find what people might recommend as the best resources for someone in my position. I am unfamiliar with what I should be looking for in resources specific to mathematics. More specifically, what are the characteristics of a good math resource? Are solutions to problems counter productive in self-teaching? Are some authors more suitable for where I am at?

    Did not mean to offend you with my questions.
  7. Feb 12, 2016 #6


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    Then start with what you already have, unless you've thrown away all those books. Is there anything wrong with them that you can't go back and re-learn from those?

  8. Feb 12, 2016 #7
    "Is there anything wrong with them" is partially why I came here. If the recommendation is to dive in to any book I have available, great! Question answered, and I will absolutely find my old books and get started. I wanted to make sure I was self-teaching in the most productive way possible.
  9. Feb 12, 2016 #8
    Yeah, studying from textbooks is the most productive way, since you'll be presented(by a good book) the material that you want study, and after this solve the maximum quantity of exercises possible.
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