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First Year of Physics at University

  1. Dec 4, 2012 #1
    It's my first year of my physics BA. I'm doing very well in my physics class, but I can't help but feel that I'm not actually LEARNING anything.

    This probably sounds weird, let me explain.

    We go through stuff in class, I read through the chapter we're studying, I do some practice problems, take a quiz, take the mid term (and soon final), but when it comes to a fundamental understanding of the material, it feels as though I'm missing something. I got a 105 on my physics midterm, so if you look at my grades, you'd say "Well, it looks like you're getting it". But I don't FEEL like I am. I don't know what's wrong.

    It IS only first year, so maybe the material we're covering is just basic? I'll watch videos on YouTube from physics guys (stuff like Sixty Symbols), and the way they describe and understand the concepts they're talking about is beyond what I could say about myself.

    Maybe it's just a bad curriculum?

    I just had to get that off my chest. Well, has anyone had a similar experience?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 4, 2012 #2
    I can relate to this at some level. My suggestion is to not just do pre-written practice problems, but really try to figure things out from scratch. Invent "practice problems" for yourself...

    For example, the other day I was filling up my water bottle and wondered if I could write an expression for the percent of the water bottle's volume I could fill up as a function of the maximum height of the water, or angle between the bottle and the "ground" of the fountain. I made a few simplifications about the shape of the bottle, and I'm sure the answer I came up with could be reduced to something a little more elegant, but playing around with the math for an hour or so, just for the fun of it, is something I find really helps to cement ideas in my head so that they become more intuitive and stay with me longer. The same sort of thing can be done with basic physics and other phenomena you see everyday. The additional benefit is that you'll not only be better at solving problems, but at finding interesting problems to solve. That's something that's especially valuable if you'd like to go into research. Not to mention it's always just fun to ask yourself an interesting question and then be able to use your knowledge to figure it out, and it'll keep you interested in the material as well.
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