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Courses Failed Physics 2. What can I do to help get better?

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  1. May 23, 2017 #1
    Sorry for long post, but please bear with me.

    I have always wanted to enter a STEM field with original intentions being computer programming. In high school I gathered a lot of interest in science and particulary physics. I aced my high school physics courses as well as my local community college while still in high school.

    My problem is this past spring I failed physics 2 ending up with a D+. I struggled. I went to help room hours, spent many hours studying the concepts and applying them to not only homework, but also practice problems on the side. Nothing was working. If you check my thread history then you will see I struggled with many types of problems this spring.

    Here is my issue. I am re-taking physics 2 this summer in order to not "fall behind" in my program. I understand it will be a challenge, but being in the course before I feel like I have gained a lot of how the course is structured. THIS, however, is not my concern. My concern is how do I do well on these exams and homeworks? I spoke with my professor and he said I am going to basically have to re-learn how to learn.

    I STRUGGLED BADLY. I put emphasis on this because I don't want to struggle. I got help when I needed and still failed. It sucks. I was hoping someone could help me figure out the best course of action when it comes to understanding physics material. I enjoy everything about physics and love the chance to speak about recent research! I just for some reason don't understand how to learn college physics as there are no examples in lectures and this is how I have always learned.

    Thanks for any and all input!!!!
     
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  3. May 23, 2017 #2

    Stephen Tashi

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    If you want specific advice, your advisers need to know the material taught in the Physics 2 at your school.
     
  4. May 23, 2017 #3
    Sorry. Physics 2 encompases E-fields, B-fields, circuits, EM waves, Guass, Voltage, Electric current, Magnetism, Faraday, and Inductors.
     
  5. May 23, 2017 #4

    Stephen Tashi

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    Can you explain how the professor thought you were approaching the material ? - vs how he recommended that you approach it?
     
  6. May 24, 2017 #5

    CalcNerd

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    .
    I believe this speaks volumes about your problem. You should probably NOT take physics 2 over the summer. First, you need to learn how to study hard college courses. Physics 2 requires your undivided attention and your ability to learn and understand new concepts.
    .
    I do not know your specific study habits, but I have seen many young engineers / designers who listen to music while the do their work /study. That is fine when you are trudging along with repetitive work or soft concepts. New material requires you to focus on the material without any distractions. Perhaps your trying to learn while listening to music, texting, and not keeping focused for extended periods on needed time. This is not the way to pass a difficult course.
     
  7. May 24, 2017 #6

    Stephen Tashi

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    Taking a glance at your previous questions, many of them involve concepts in 3 dimensions. Making the transition from plane geometry to solid geometry and from the calculus of one variable to calculus in 3 dimensions can be difficult. In some schools, the calculus syllabus doesn't emphasize the type of problems that are encountered in E&M courses. Did you take a "calculus 3" type of course that covered calculus in 3 dimensions?
     
  8. May 24, 2017 #7
    Calc 3 is my next math class this fall. I have had some exposure to 3 dimensions in calc 2. I am currently working on calc 3 this summer though as a head start. I have yet to struggle in math or such. My physics course is just failure in testing.
     
  9. May 24, 2017 #8
    He basically said that I was memorizing things that should NOT be memorized. Such as special cases and things that should be derived. I noticed I had a hard time remembering laws and definitions in he sense of using them but special cases made sense such as the E-field for a point charge. I remember that but I rarely remember how it's obtained. In this case you use Coulomb's law and the definition of E-fields.
     
  10. May 24, 2017 #9
    I do not listen to music while studying. Instead I use silence (: this way I can focus. My way of studying was reading his lecture notes and the book before lecture. This way I had questions to ask. Then I would be ACTIVE in class and take notes on the stuff he wrote on the boards. After class I would attempt the homework by doing problems we had exposure to in concepts. This is where my great train derailed. Basically I have always been taught in high school is you are shown a problem and then you replicate it on HW and tests.

    I would get frustrated and would end up in either my campus helproom or here. From there I would note down stuff that I felt was important. Then the tests came up and I failed. I would go to the TA and professor when I didn't know how to do a test problem. Also I would review the test right after but nothing worked. In the end my HW section excelled but tests I failed.
     
  11. May 24, 2017 #10

    CalcNerd

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    Buy an REA Physics study guide and do the appropriate problems in this book. Resort to referencing their solution methods as needed (but avoid, just looking at their solutions until you have exhausted your other resources). Start on the easier problems and work up. All difficult problems need to be broken down to simpler problems if only to do a quick analysis of what type of units and ROM (Relative Order of Magnitude).
    .
    If you can understand what is asked and set up a solution path, you will be 80% there ie you should get a fair amount of credit, even if you don't get the exact answer (provided you get in the neighborhood). However, it's hard to award credit when the student does most of the problem right, but is off by a factor of 10 or a 100 or provides a completely nonsensical unit of measurement!
    .
    I like the REA study guides best, but there are certainly others and you may even want to find a solutions manual for your current text. Beware though that you don't abuse such a tool and it turns into a crutch. I believe that if you do a lot of problems and learn from your mistakes that you will be able to learn a lot. Some students simply use these guides to do their homework without even thinking about how the solutions were derived. ie You need to develop your own problem solving abilities, the solution manuals are there to either reinforce good behavior /methods or to help you back to using good methods. Don't let them become your tool to finish homework.
     
  12. May 24, 2017 #11
    What helped me was making sure I rigorously understood the theory behind every concept I was applying when solving a problem. And then do loads of different problems to make sure I caught everything. This was a time-consuming way to learn, but simple and very effective.
     
  13. May 24, 2017 #12

    Stephen Tashi

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    So Physics 2 is what's commonly known as "Electricity and Magnetism". I've been out of school for over twenty years, but you should be able to find other people on the forum who can advise you about studying Electricity And Magnetism. You may have to post a thread that specifically mentions Electricity and Magnetism to attract their attention. Mention what textbook is used in your E&M course.

    You do need to study the type of Calculus course that deals with gradients, potentials, line integrals, and surface integrals to have a good background for Electricity and Magnetism. In some schools, the physics departments used to pack instruction in those topics into the E&M course so they could teach E&M without waiting for the math department.
     
  14. May 24, 2017 #13

    symbolipoint

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    Does that listing mean, there is a Mathematics course which has "potentials" as a topic or concept? Or would this be just a particular kind of application for some other topic?
     
  15. May 24, 2017 #14
    I haven't read any other replies but I am double majoring in physics and math. The first thing you need to understand is that in order to do well in physics you are going to have to struggle and even if you do you are not guaranteed a passing score. For our Mechanics final we had people breaking down, that is just how it is. To do well in physics you need to have the fundamentals down. By this I am meaning more emphasis on concept and theory than anything because as you may know the math is straightforward (at least at your level) but if you can't understand what it means for a current carrying loop to produce a magnetic field through its interior etc. and understand (up to the point of visualization) the mathematics governing the behavior of the situation given then you may not do well. Also I hate to say it but physics involves a lot of "tricks". It is not uncommon to see problems on a test or homework that you have seemingly never covered in lecture. A lot of students freak out about this, but if you are a good student you will have mastered the fundamentals to a certain point and can think your way through to the solution patiently. Physics is about the problem solving(thinking) process. You need to master new ways of looking at the material to do well. Here are a few documents that will give you insight on how to better train your physics brain.
     

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  16. May 24, 2017 #15

    Stephen Tashi

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    Yes. The mathematical concept of the "potential function" for a conservative vector field is taught in math courses called "vector calculus" or, more generally, "advanced calculus". In some schools, the physics department may have its own version of this type of course.
     
  17. May 25, 2017 #16

    marcusl

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    I hear you describing the problem this way: you've always been a "regurgitator" and now you are in a course where you need to learn and understand concepts and then apply them to problems you've never seen. That, in a nutshell, is what physics is all about. When your professor talks about a complete shift in approach, he may be referring to this transition that you need to make.

    Steven Tashi is completely right in saying that you should make up any math prerequisites before continuing in physics. Also start focusing on understanding concepts. I'm not sure how to advise you to do this; maybe ensure that you can derive, by yourself, the various formulas in your book. Don't move on until you understand what's being presented--Coulomb's Law, Gauss's theorem, Biot-Savart, Maxwell's Equations, whatever they are--and get help on these. This applies to math courses as well. If you comprehend the concepts, then solving problems, whether in homework or on tests, should take care of itself.
     
  18. May 26, 2017 #17
    That sounds a lot like Calculus IV and a bit of III.
     
    Last edited: May 27, 2017
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