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Best way for absolute beginner in college to learn math/physics

  1. Jun 10, 2012 #1
    I took Calculus AB in my senior year of high school, but I had absolutely no idea what was going on since day 1. Of course, I failed the class. But now I'm in college and I have access to the internet at home now (I've never had internet at my home before this year) and I found all of these useful resources online that I could use (including this forum! :)), but the information overload is driving me nuts.

    I watched a lot of videos at Khan Academy to make sure I knew my Algebra, Trigonometry, and Pre-Calculus, and I think I know them pretty well. I scored above 90s on every practice exam in each section I took, but it's not like they were advanced questions or anything so my actual knowledge in these subjects might be misguided. I don't know, but it's not like I have much time before I start college in the fall semester, and I only have about 2 months left to prepare so I don't think I can spend too much time on the easy stuff even though I feel like I have a good base.

    I'm going to take Calculus and Physics for my first year in school, but when I tried reading the textbook we will use for Calculus (by James Stewart) in the first chapter I was definitely lost and no idea what he was talking about. I think I used the dictionary and Wikipedia more than reading the actual textbook to try and figure out what was going on, but a resource like Wikipedia just confused me because it had even more advanced topics on its pages.

    I think I learn better when I'm provided the answer first because I can reverse engineer the problem based on what I know and after ripping it apart, I put it back together to try and figure out how it works and then if I work on another similar problem I know how to solve it. I'm not sure if this is the best idea to learn material though. But it works for getting good grades at least.

    But anyway, are there any books that will practically baby-feed me into Calculus and Physics so I can prepare for the upcoming semester?? Thanks!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 10, 2012 #2
    Hi jawsholden! Welcome to PF :smile:

    Its great you have internet access now!

    You should take a look at MIT's scholar lectures for both physics I and single variable calculus. They have worksheets along with, so you can make sure that you learnt the thing properly.


    As far as books are concerned, I'd recommend Serge Lang's Calculus over Stewart's for a first go : https://www.amazon.com/First-Course-Calculus-Serge-Lang/dp/0201041499

    Then once you think you know the subject basics, go for

    Spivak's Caluclus : https://www.amazon.com/Calculus-4th...=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339324201&sr=1-1

    or Apostol's : https://www.amazon.com/Calculus-Vol...=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339324201&sr=1-6

    I've heard Courant's is a good book too, but I have never actually seen the book, so no comments there.

    For physics, Halliday's - 'Fundamentals Of Physics' is a great undergraduate book. If you can get an older copy, it would be yet better.

    You should also read the Feynman Lectures on Physics(Vol I for physics I). Learning physics is incomplete without that book.

    And of course, there's always the amazing PF to help you!! :wink:
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2012
  4. Jun 10, 2012 #3
    Thank you.

    Why the older version of Halliday's - 'Fundamentals Of Physics'? And which version would be the best?
  5. Jun 10, 2012 #4
    I've found older versions are rigorous enough, and the latest one I've seen is the 8th edition. Unnecessary stuff is added in the extended editions, so I prefer the older books. I think 3rd or 4th edition would be best to get.
  6. Jun 10, 2012 #5
    Math never changes only social medium, even youtube has calc these days!
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