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I seeking some advice about the calculus of variations.

I am an undergraduate and i am enrolled in a topic of the above mentioned. After successfully completing the requirments for the topic, 3 weeks after commencement i am feeling way out of my depth. I understand that the calculus of variations is dealing with the optimization of functionals but already the homework assignments have me stumped.

ie: with r as the independent variable, find the polar equation of a straight line by minimizing the integral between the points in a plane P & Q

int:sqrt(dr^2+r^2*dtheta^2)

Geez! where do start?. I have aquired some books on the topic by Bliss, Weinstock and Sagan which at this stage are not much help (no fault of the authors). Can anybody point me in the right direction or offer some advice as to how i should tackle this topic, I AM DETERMINED! to succeed.

Callisto