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Distressed highly by Physics

  1. Feb 28, 2012 #1

    I am a high school senior, and I am taking the equivalent of a first year Introductory Undergraduate Physics course (in Mechanics & E-mag) (AP class). Like many people (I imagine) I am not fully grasping everything, but more so my prior study methods are definitely not working. More so I am finding myself memorizing methods to solve a particular type of problem set rather than understanding the "true" physics behind it. Ideally I would like to spend a considerable amount each day reviewing physics and doing problems, but the extensive work involved in doing problems causes me to save physics for last - which usually leads to quick, superficial work and general avoidance. Perhaps it is a lack of intrinsic motivation, but I have a general feeling of guilt of not "really" understanding the underlying mechanisms.

    My instructor is fairly knowledgeable and I believe a decent teacher to say the least, but still I am not grasping as much as I'd like. Perhaps it is the speed at which the course goes or that fact I am overwhelmed by other subjects as well.

    Nonetheless - I know the answer to my problem is to - study everyday, do problems, ask questions, learn, learn... but that all quite is easier said than done. What I really am asking is how you particularly approached physics - whether it be studying or understanding and how it worked out for you. Perhaps reassurance is what I seek, but is there anything that you find could really make learning physics for more enjoyable rather than a tiring, dreaded task?

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2012 #2
    I'm slowly and painfully learning that one of the best things you really can do is reach out for help. Many times throughout my undergraduate career I've spent HOURS trying to understand things on my own and just getting nowhere at all only to be frustrated to see I've wasted time that could've been applied to understanding easier/more important concepts.

    So yea, just reach out for as many sources of help as possible and try not to be to hard on yourself if you do (I'm extremely guilty of this).
  4. Feb 28, 2012 #3


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    ditto what Meadman said
  5. Feb 28, 2012 #4
    Sounds like your overloaded! Why not do a first year University physics class in your first year at University?
  6. Feb 28, 2012 #5


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    I remember realizing that physics was going to be much, much harder than I expected. I cleared my schedule of all non-essential items, and got into a regular schedule of studying, whether I felt like it or not.

    I also cut back on my sleep -- a *huge* mistake, I didn't do myself any favors by doing that. You can't learn when you're chronically tired.
  7. Feb 28, 2012 #6
    Ideally, how would you have done it? I have a few concerns of my own, some of which are quite similar to the OP's.

    Eight hours for sleep...and the rest?
  8. Feb 28, 2012 #7


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    Distressed by physics?

    Almost everything that is happening around you 24 hours a day is physics.

    Don't resist....embrace it.

    Let's see....I'll give you a hint in the right direction....that might be a better explanation then your used to.

    I assume you've learned F=ma

    Big physics equation for sure.

    If you walk into a wall.....it's hurts a bit. If you are at a full sprint and walk into a wall.....it REALLY hurts!

    Why? F=ma. Your mass is the same in either case......however, you acceleration....in in this case....deacceleration was much different.

    In the first case....let's say you stopped in .25 seconds. And lets say your speed was 1 meter per second. Acc. is velocity divided by time. So in this case your acc. is 4ms^2.

    In other case....let's say you stopped again in .25 seconds. But lets say your speed was 10 meters per second. Now your acc. is 40ms^2!

    So since your mass is the same....the force is 10 times bigger in the faster case!

    Kinda a basic example...but without fully embracing this you can't go further!

    Any questions?
  9. Feb 28, 2012 #8


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    Get your physics done first; don't put it off until the last thing each day. If it is really important to you, let something else slide.
  10. Feb 28, 2012 #9


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    If I could relive those years, I would not work as much as I did (nearly full time). It would have meant taking on debt, though. Had I done that, I would have had more time for socializing. But I considered that to be non-essential and cut it almost entirely. Too bad, because I think hanging out with friends is a great stress reliever.
  11. Feb 28, 2012 #10
    I've been helping my son with his AP physics. Like you, he would work on it (probably starring at it) wanting it to "click". After waiting too long, he would ask for help. Usually, in a couple minutes I can show him what he needs. Often times it's a change in approach to a problem. Some stuff you can self teach, but honestly, it's a risk of self teaching the wrong thing, a waste of time, or frustration elevation that is very counterproductive to good work.

    In short, ask for help. Try first, of course, but don't spin your wheels on something you just don't get.
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