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Confusing instructor, can I learn from text alone?

  1. Apr 22, 2015 #1
    I'm taking Physics 121 with an instructor that I personally find confusing. Nothing in the lectures nor explanations during office hours get through to me at all. Our assigned text is "Physics, Volume 1 - Resnick, Halliday, Krane."
    I want to get a solid foundation of the material (beginning kinematics and dynamics: motion, projectiles, vectors, forces, etc.) that will carry through with me for the rest of the 12x physics sequence, and beyond.
    Is that possible from reading and taking notes from the text alone or should I drop the class and try with a different instructor?
    Thank you!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2015 #2
    Do not drop. You'll have to get used to learning on your own. I came to a stage where I read and study on my own and go to classes only on tests/quizzes in all of my classes that don't require attendance. Halliday-Resnick is a really good introductory textbook, and you'll have plenty of supplementary material in youtube, KhanAcademy, here, etc..
     
  4. Apr 23, 2015 #3

    symbolipoint

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    The first real Physics course is hard. Maybe your instructor is clear in instruction, or maybe not. We do not know this through the forum. If the instructor is difficult to understand, then include department's tutorial help, if it exists, and working with other students in your class/course, and rely heavily on your textbook and be sure to study carefully, in extreme detail. You described a syllabus of content, so let that guide you on what topics to learn.
     
  5. Apr 23, 2015 #4
    You can definitely learn from text alone, especially from a good book like Halliday and Resnick. There's no need to drop, learn what you can from class but fill in holes with directed reading and of course problem solving. I actually prefer a more bare bones reading of the material than textbooks generally give, so I've often supplemented with the Schaum's outlines series of books, which are a great resource of solved problems and examples for practice:

    https://www.amazon.com/Schaums-Outline-Physics-Engineering-Science-ebook/dp/B009NW5KLA

    Other resources like MIT opencourseware and Khan Academy have been mentioned and are great for supplementary material. Don't put all your egss in one basket bascially, most people won't learn as much as they can relying only on instruction from classroom lectures. Good luck.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  6. Apr 23, 2015 #5
    Get used to it. Through my last degree out of 47 classes there were probably 5 classes that we learned entirely via University of Youtube,
    And most if not all would use online resources like Khan and MIT for supplemental material.
    Its also nice to see other explanations of concepts. I found that a couple sources really helped cement the information in my brain :)
     
  7. Apr 23, 2015 #6
    Ok everyone, thanks for the insight and resources shared. I'm not dropping then.
     
  8. Apr 23, 2015 #7

    symbolipoint

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    Your choice if you believe it necessary. Otherwise, stay in the class for as long as you can get some benefit from it. When you repeat the class/course, you should be able to work hard enough to earn an A (or at least a B).

    We could guess that "Physics 121" is the first course in the series, and is the one requiring you to learn to be analytical, make precise diagrams, and trust your algebra. A few (maybe more than a few) struggle with this. If you're putting in the right effort now, and you put in the right effort when you repeat the course, you should expect to learn the material much better.
     
  9. Apr 24, 2015 #8
    I don't think Halliday and Resnick is a good source. I hear it used to be good in the distant past but modern editions I do not like much. I prefer Physics for Scientists and Engineers by KNIGHT (there are like five different books with this title, get the one by Knight). I also suggest reading books like The Flying Circus of Physics and Mad About Physics to build up your conceptual understanding.
     
  10. Apr 25, 2015 #9

    symbolipoint

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    Many years ago, a good source was University Physics, by Sears, Zemansky, & Young.
     
  11. Apr 25, 2015 #10

    radium

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    I would look at several textbooks and also sources like lecture notes online. That's the best way you can learn on your own. Sometimes you will be have to do this. You also will learn by doing the homework. My friends are being forced to do this in QFT this semester.
     
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