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Can you learn Physics as a 9th Grader?

  1. Dec 15, 2009 #1

    Hello people at Physics Forums. I have a few questions that I want answered. First off, I am in ninth grade and I take physical science. To me physical science is simple and with my spare time I would like to learn physics for my future classes. The problem is, I think I am shooting far ahead of what I should be shooting for. I have heard that you will need a basic understanding of calculus and trig. Since I am a ninth grader I am only in an algebra I class and I certainly would not understand calculus and trig. Is there a way where I can still get basic understandings of what physics is and possibly learn it the best I can for now? There are certainly teachers at my school who teach the course though I don't know if I should approach them asking for tutoring in the subject because I know the teacher would probably say to get through your classes first and then they can help tutor me. I just feel attracted to physics so much that I really wanna dive into the experience now. My questions are, should I try to learn physics early on ? What would you do if you were in my position ? And are there any sites or documentations that will give me step by step processes on some of the areas of physics and give me problems that I can work out after wards ?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 15, 2009 #2
    a) if you really want to, and have the time, why not?
    b) hyperphysics is good, but may be too complex.
    Most high school physics isn't calc based; algebra and trig (basic sin/cos/tan relationships) should be enough. My high school experimented with teaching physics first, and there's a whole philosophical debate over which science should come first.
  4. Dec 15, 2009 #3
    The way non-AP classes are taught in high schools varies a lot from place to place. For instance, while reading this thread and thinking about the differences between high school vs. college physics, I now remember that my high school physics class didn't use vectors at all (nor, to my surprise, did I ever learn matrix multiplication until I got a crash course on it while learning Special Relativity-what a treat!). In hindsight, that seems absurd, but it's just the way they did things.
  5. Dec 15, 2009 #4


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    See if this works for algebra and trig:

    Lamar is a not-famous not-big university in Texas. Paul Dawkins is a dedicated teacher.
    He gives you problems, and if you click on "solution" you can see the solution. You can study online with his math notes. Try tp understand a problem, then peek at his solution, and try to understand that. Then come back the next day and see if you can work it out with pencil and paper without peeking!

    Lamar college students have some similarity to bright motivated highschool students. You may be able to use this.

    Paul Dawkins also has an easy introduction to calculus.

    Try it! Maybe you don't need wait and can jump right in. A graphics calculator can help, but also just an ordinary calculator plus some graph paper and just taking the trouble to plot some functions like x2 and x3 and log x, and 1/x. Making rough plots of various functions by hand, with the help of a decent calculator.
    you must have a calculator with square root and trig functions.

    I think Paul Dawkins is good for basic level hands-on math. Anybody know of something better?

    A lot of the process of learning mathematics is simply GETTING USED TO STUFF. Humbly following the steps, and getting used to the fact that it works.


    physicsnoob93 suggested Dawkins. My guess is that physicsnoob93 is about highschool age (if b. 1993) and knows good ways to learn.
    So physicsnoob also suggested you try the book Young and Geller College Physics
    However new that costs $150
    and also there is a lot of related free-download stuff you can find by google. Like somebody point me at this:
    but I didn't try to see if it works.
    In any case, physicsnoob says Young and Geller gives you NON-CALCULUS physics. There must be some calculus because the slope of the curve corresponds to velocity, and if you plot the speed, the slope of the speed corresponds to acceleration. There has to be stuff like that. But if we believe physicsnoob you can start in Young Geller with little or no previous calculus.

    Maybe Young and Geller is in some library near you. A local junior college? Or maybe they have something else. I wouldn't buy an expensive book (or even bother to download) without browsing first to see if it was right for what I needed it for.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  6. Dec 16, 2009 #5


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    Without the necessary mathematical background, it really is difficult to do any meaningful physics. At the very minimum, this includes being very proficient at algebraic manipulation (rearranging equations, substituting, etc.).

    Marcus' post is great, and I'll echo a similar sentiment in that if you have access to a jr. college or college library, you can probably find a book used for the most basic physics class taught there which will likely be no more than algebra based. If you really can't wait to get your feet wet, start with this and go from there.

    If you find this is too much for you, I recommend taking a step back and reading books that more just tell you about things rather than textbooks (i.e popular science books like those by Greene or Hawking). For example, Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" is an excellent book to get you interested in a whole host of physics.
  7. Dec 16, 2009 #6


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    One will eventually need to master algebra, trigonometry, analytical geometry, linear algebra (matrices and vectors), and calculus. It's not all that hard.

    Ask one your teachers, perhaps the most senior, which Physics text they would recommend, or perhaps a lesson plan.

    Go for it! I used to visit city and university libraries from 7th grade on. I browsed physics texts, which lead me to math texts. Unfortunately, I didn't have a mentor. If I had access to Physics Forums 40 years ago, I'd have become a frequent member.

    See our https://www.physicsforums.com/forumdisplay.php?f=35 [Broken]

    story645 mentioned Hyperphysics which is a great site. marcus made some great suggestions.

    Here's an example of a high school course -

    At Hyperphysics, here is the math section - http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/hmat.html#hmath
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Dec 16, 2009 #7


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    Another approach is to try a textbook like Hewitt's "Conceptual Physics" which covers the basic concepts of mechanics, optics, electricity & magnetism, etc., with a minimum of math. If you can get something out of a book like that, it might make things easier when you get to a "real" physics course, because you'll be able to focus more on the math and problem-solving techniques.
  9. Dec 16, 2009 #8


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    I like Hewitt's approach to physics.

    http://www.conceptualphysics.com/images/touchthis.jpg [Broken]

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  10. Dec 16, 2009 #9
    Yes! I think I can safely credit Paul G. Hewitt as the guy who got me into physics.
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