Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Calculus required for E&M

  1. Nov 18, 2005 #1
    Next semester I'm taking Intro to Physics II and Calculus II concurrently. Calc II is a co-requisite for Physics II, but in Physics I I've found that sometimes the teacher presumes knowledge not yet taught in Calc I (co-requisite for physics I). I was wondering if there were any topics in Calc II I should look at on my own before next semester in order to prepare for physics. Here are the course description to give you an idea of what the courses involve:

    Calc I: Limits, continuity, differentiation and integration, applications, FTC and Taylor's Theorem (I not sure if we're going to cover Taylor)

    Calc II: Calculus of transcendental functions, integration techniques (substitution was already covered), and infinite series.

    Physics II:Quantitative development of electromagnetism and optics.

    I'm assuming I'll need some knowledge of differential equations (already have this) but are there any other things that I should really know?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2005 #2
    You'll be fine. If I remember correctly, the most calculus you'll ever need to do in an intro to physics class is single variable integration.
  4. Nov 18, 2005 #3
    Depends on the intro E&M course... mine includes a good bit of volume integration and most other vector calculus subjects as well. Linear algebra or vector calculus are official co-requisites, but vector calculus has been pretty essential, although the professor was willing to teach the math as well as the physics when needed.

    Your course probably differs, but it would still be worthwhile to talk to the professor teaching it to figure this out. We can't judge such matters without knowing the course.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2005
  5. Nov 18, 2005 #4
    The E&M course I'm in deals with differential equations (for example in circuits), path integrals, vectors, and fields.
    The description is:

    Electric charge and current, electric and magnetic fields in vacuum and in materials, and induction. AC circuits, displacement current, and electromagnetic waves.

    I would think as long as you understand vectors, vector fields, and basic integration you will be fine. We don't have to deal with anything as far as differential equations are concerned. We are shown the laws in their proper form, but the book derives everything into clean, symmetric problems. Thus, you shouldn't even have to worry about integrating over a path either. Just understand the concepts I guess.

    If you want some excellent videos on E&M check out the open course ware videos at MIT. The professor is AMAZING.
    http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/Physics/8-02Electricity-and-MagnetismSpring2002/VideoLectures/index.htm [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  6. Nov 18, 2005 #5
    You can learn little "tricks" to deal with the volume integrations. But, it is much easier to understand the math that describes the physical phenomenon, instead of trying to memorize every possible case.
  7. Nov 18, 2005 #6
    Its a first year E&M class.
  8. Nov 18, 2005 #7
    It is taken in the third semester at my college (first semester sophomore year), but it is the first E&M class we take as a physics major and still very much an introduction to the subject (first semester is intro to quantum mechanics and special relativity, second semester is intro to mechanics).
  9. Nov 19, 2005 #8
    You're still talking about a different class than the original poster is. He is talking about the second intro to physics course. There is no chance you took a pure high level E&M/Vector Calculus course without taking an intro to physics sequence.
  10. Nov 19, 2005 #9
    No seriously, it IS the intro to physics sequence. I have never taken a class before on E&M and it is the first E&M course offered for physics majors at my school. I had an extremely rudimentary background in E&M from high school, but that's not assumed for the course. We're using EM Purcell's text, which includes all that fun vector calculus (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0070049084/104-5364355-4648756?v=glance&n=283155&v=glance).
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  11. Nov 19, 2005 #10
    Right... but that's still not the same course the original poster is talking about. He posted course descriptions.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2017
  12. Nov 24, 2005 #11
    It seems like some schools require you to finish cal2 or 3 before the fresh/soph EM class. I guess it really depends on how its taught. At my school it was taught with a heavy emphasis on integration, not so much finding antiderivatives, but understanding when and how to integrate the sum of a bunch of infinitesimal quantities. A basic understand of vectors is presumed as well,which you should have used in mechanics anyway.
    My class didnt REQUIRE Diff-eq but it helps since many book derivations use techniques from that class. I would suggest learning the simplest method of solving ODEs, separation of variables. It also wouldnt hurt to preview trig sub integration techniques. OH and pick up some linear algebra to make solving linear systems easier and faster (gauss-jordan, or learn how to use a graphing calculator to spit it out for you)
  13. Nov 24, 2005 #12


    User Avatar

    it totally depends on the school.

    Here, it requires Calc 1-3 and 2 semesters of linear algebra.
  14. Nov 24, 2005 #13
    perhaps you dont know, AP level E&M already requires surface integral and the idea of line integral. ODE and vector calculus (grad, div, curl) also maybe helpful too.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook