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Class Schedule

  1. Apr 4, 2008 #1
    Hello physics forum! First let me say this site is excellent for insight into this wonderful subject! I've learned a tremendous amount just by surfing the forums in the short period of time that i've been here.

    Now for my reason in posting...

    I am currently a senior in high school preparing to begin college in the fall as a physics major. My question is regarding scheduling Calculus and University Physics courses in the same semester without having any background in calculus. The suggested curriculum schedule set up for the University I will attend, suggests that students should take Calculus I and University Physics (calculus based physics... or so I've been told) together in the same semester. Is it realistic that they expect one to learn calculus at the same time they must apply it towards a physics course? Do they ease into the calculus-physics at the same pace as the calculus lessons, or would it be better to ignore the suggested curricula and take calculus before university physics in two separate semesters?

    Thanks for any advice in advance.

    Sorry I must edit my post because I forgot to ask another question that I had in mind. Is it necessary to take pre-calculus before you take college calculus, or will college algebra and college trigonometry/analytical geometry prepare you enough to take college calculus, without having to take pre-calculus?
    Thanks again.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 4, 2008 #2
    To answer your first question, I think that it is OK to take Calculus I at the same time you take calculus based Physics (Classical Mechanics only, for EM you will need Calc II). That is because for physics all you will need to know is how to differentiate simple equations (in most cases the prof will give you the rule to use too) and know what derivates of physical equations mean. It might be a bit confusing at first, because your phys class might start using calc before your calc class, but after a week or two your calc class will catch up and overtake phys.
  4. Apr 4, 2008 #3


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    Simultaneous enrollment Calcu 1 and Physics 1 - Safer to study the first semester of Calculus first so you have more time to learn it before using even the simpler parts for Physics 1.

    PreCalculus or set of College Algebra + Trigonometry separate courses - As preparation for first semester calculus, either is adequate. You basically describe almost the same thing, except "PreCalculus" will combine both courses into one (College Algebra AND Trigonometry). What are typical student practices today? Often students who felt strong, would avoid the PreCalculus course, but just rely on Intermediate Algebra and Trigonometry separate courses and then enroll in first semester Calculus.
  5. Apr 4, 2008 #4
    Pre-calc I think is only needed if you need a review of trig/algebra. It basically packs all the concepts from those two subjects into one semester. At my school there was as a very very basic introduction to limits... but it was so basic you could pick it up in a very short time of reading. So as long as your algebra & trig skills are fine, you should be ok. Its said if your skills aren't fine, they will be ok by the end of calculus or you won't pass. Anyway, I didn't learn anything new in pre-calc that I didn't learn in those two classes besides the basic introduction of limits.
  6. Apr 4, 2008 #5
    Wow, thanks for all the quick help everyone!

    I think that I will travel the algebra/trigonometry route instead of the pre-calculus just to get a more in-depth "review" of the mathematics. I will be taking the college algebra course over the summer, then the trigonometry/analytical geometry course during my 1st semester.

    I still just need to decide if for my second semester it would be better to study calculus and put off the physics courses for my sophomore year... or if I should try to carry the heavy load of calculus AND calculus based physics for my second semester.

    Oh well... I have got a little bit of time to decide.

    Thanks again.
  7. Apr 4, 2008 #6
    If you decide not to do Calculus I and Physics I in the same semester (which I think would be just fine if you study enough), you might want to make sure that this will not set you back too far. For example, if you are at a smaller school, Physics I may only be offered in the fall and waiting until sophomore year may result in your degree taking an additional year depending on the schedules later on. It could be fine but it is worth looking into since "suggested curricula" is usually such for a reason. Again, I think taking them concurrently right away would be no problem for you if you took algebra and trigonometry in high school.
  8. Apr 4, 2008 #7
    Thanks for the input...I am afraid that it would set me back as well. It would probably be in my best interest to do University Physics and Calculus I both during my second semester. Maybe on winter break before my second semester I can study some basic calculus on my own in order to prepare for the work-load.

    It's a large University (University of Kentucky), so I don't think the "scheduling" should be much of a problem.

    Thanks everyone!
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