Good with math, but poor with physics?

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  • #26
chiro
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I go to all the lectures, and lectures are for the most part useless. The professor spends the entire lecture deriving the same equations the book does and doesn't really teach the concepts. However, I don't want to blame the prof for my incompetence and lack of intelligence, since there are many students in the class who are doing well.

I just think I am not getting this stuff, since as you say, it should take 4 and a half minutes to do that problem.

I don't know why people keep saying that doing problems will alleviate this problem, but I'm just not seeing that? I spend hours doing problems, and my problem-solving abilities don't seem to improve as much as people seem to suggest around here. At best, I think I could probably solve the problem in 6 minutes, and that's rushing through it...

I can't really comment on the professor or you, but based on what you have said the professor is actually at least in part, teaching you the concepts.

The idea for things like physics, applied mathematics, statistics and to some degree pure mathematics is that you start off with really general concepts and then you take a lot of them and meld them together with a bunch of constraints to get either a model or a new concept to use.

The idea of doing derivations is not only for the sake of proving results: it's also used to go through what the concepts are and how they play a role in some new result, model or similar representation.

What you should be paying really close attention to is not only what these constraints are and what they mean 'in english' or your language of choice, but also what these constraints mean physically and what the melded formula means physically when it has been proven if your professor is doing so.

I recommend you thinking about your identities and other things like formulas and otherwise in terms of a constraint because if you understand the boundary of that constraint and the consequences of that constraint in terms of physical intuition, it will make your life a lot easier when you see a derivation because in the back of your mind you have mentally prepared yourself by understanding what these formulas mean not in terms of something symbolic mathematically, but symbolic in an intuitive physical sense.

In fact this is precisely what applied mathematicians, physicists and engineers have to do: they take models developed usually by pure mathematicians (often decades or many decades previously) and then they enforce constraints that allow them to make use of a result that was more general but is now simpler to use for the purposes of the scientist, engineer, or otherwise.

The constraint will tell you a lot about what's going on even if you are not an expert or have studied something in a lot of detail if you try and relate the constraint back to what its being used for.

Constraints make it possible for us to understand the world. Without them we wouldn't understand anything because we would be taking in everything and it wouldn't be manageable.
 
  • #27
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I think if you understand all the concepts, then problem-solving should follow, with just a little practice. If practice is not working, I would suspect it's the conceptual understanding that is missing.
 
  • #28
2,981
5
I go to all the lectures, and lectures are for the most part useless. The professor spends the entire lecture deriving the same equations the book does and doesn't really teach the concepts. However, I don't want to blame the prof for my incompetence and lack of intelligence, since there are many students in the class who are doing well.

I just think I am not getting this stuff, since as you say, it should take 4 and a half minutes to do that problem.

I don't know why people keep saying that doing problems will alleviate this problem, but I'm just not seeing that? I spend hours doing problems, and my problem-solving abilities don't seem to improve as much as people seem to suggest around here. At best, I think I could probably solve the problem in 6 minutes, and that's rushing through it...
I don't mean to be impolite, but maybe you are just not good at Physics. That's why grades lower than A are for.
 
  • #29
323
1
I don't mean to be impolite, but maybe you are just not good at Physics. That's why grades lower than A are for.


Geeze give him a break he just started. I dont think a "B" means you are not good at physics either. I don't know many people who didn't struggle with it at all the first course they took in it. Most lower level math classes are easier than lower level physics courses, so this should explain why him getting easy A's in lower level maths versus somewhere in the B range for physics.

Dragoon,

It is just going to take time for you to get used to the different way of thinking and the different problem solving necessary for physics. I wouldn't be deterred, unless you utterly cant stand the subject.
 
  • #30
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7
I don't mean to be impolite, but maybe you are just not good at Physics. That's why grades lower than A are for.

At least you are being honest about it, which I thank you for. I am tired about hearing all of the people on this board who say all it takes is just "hard work". Yeah, right. I doubt most qualified physicists today ever struggled with the introductory classes and concepts.

At least I know I gave it my best shot, after all, most people aren't good at physics and there's a reason why most people hate it (and it's not purely because of bad teachers, like other posters on here like to claim). Meh, I'll just stick with math. At least I won't have to be good at physics and I was always interested in math, physics was just something I was moderately interested in since I found it pretty interesting to see the real-world applications of math.
 
  • #31
323
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At least you are being honest about it, which I thank you for. I am tired about hearing all of the people on this board who say all it takes is just "hard work". Yeah, right. I doubt most qualified physicists today ever struggled with the introductory classes and concepts.

At least I know I gave it my best shot, after all, most people aren't good at physics and there's a reason why most people hate it (and it's not purely because of bad teachers, like other posters on here like to claim). Meh, I'll just stick with math. At least I won't have to be good at physics and I was always interested in math, physics was just something I was moderately interested in since I found it pretty interesting to see the real-world applications of math.


Think again.

Anyway, if you want one persons opinion to sway you away from an interesting field, be my guest. It takes hard work to be a physicist or a mathematician, even if you are naturally good at the kind of thinking required. If you think math is much easier for you, then come back and tell us that after you take real analysis.
 
  • #32
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Think again.

Anyway, if you want one persons opinion to sway you away from an interesting field, be my guest. It takes hard work to be a physicist or a mathematician, even if you are naturally good at the kind of thinking required. If you think math is much easier for you, then come back and tell us that after you take real analysis.

I struggled much more with my first Calc classes than I ever did with analysis. I also struggled more with my intro physics classes than my upper level ones. After an entire math degree plus a little more I found that I'm really not cut out for research level math. My math insights are weak and my generalizing abilities are shoddy. But from my first physics classes I felt that I thought differently from others regardless of struggling.

If -Dragoon- feels a certain way with math then so be it, I don't see why you're taking offense to it. Not everyone has to like physics.
 
  • #33
309
7
I don't mean to be impolite, but maybe you are just not good at Physics. That's why grades lower than A are for.

I find the last part of your statement to be laughable. If that is your definition of "being good at physics", then why do many physics graduate programs except students with less than A average (<3.7 GPA)? Clearly, they are not good at physics by your definition, so why do graduate schools still accept them? Are their supervisors idiots or something?
 
  • #34
1,772
126
At least I know I gave it my best shot, after all, most people aren't good at physics and there's a reason why most people hate it (and it's not purely because of bad teachers, like other posters on here like to claim). Meh, I'll just stick with math. At least I won't have to be good at physics and I was always interested in math, physics was just something I was moderately interested in since I found it pretty interesting to see the real-world applications of math.

Physics is more than just an application of math. It's a part of math. The roots of a lot of math are in physics. It's possible to be a successful mathematician without knowing any physics, but I don't know that I would recommend it. Eventually, if you go far enough in math, there are parts of physics that will just be "more math"--as I've been saying, no different from the rest of math, except as some weird superstition that you have in your mind that they are completely different subjects. You can look at some things from a very mathematical point of view, if you want.

Even when I was studying electrical engineering, I thought the theory side of it was the same thing as what I'm doing now, studying math. I use the same sort of thought processes to understand all of it.
 
  • #35
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I find the last part of your statement to be laughable. If that is your definition of "being good at physics", then why do many physics graduate programs except students with less than A average (<3.7 GPA)? Clearly, they are not good at physics by your definition, so why do graduate schools still accept them? Are their supervisors idiots or something?

Graduate programs also require you take a set of obligatory physics courses. If you get a B- (less than 3.0 on a number scale) in Physics II, then what would you expect to get in Classical Mechanics, Theoretical Electrodynamics, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, all required by graduate schools? Surely, your GPA would be below 3.0, or even 2.5, which would not be enough for a grad school admission. Thus, your point is moot.
 
  • #36
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126
Graduate programs also require you take a set of obligatory physics courses. If you get a B- (less than 3.0 on a number scale) in Physics II, then what would you expect to get in Classical Mechanics, Theoretical Electrodynamics, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, all required by graduate schools? Surely, your GPA would be below 3.0, or even 2.5, which would not be enough for a grad school admission. Thus, your point is moot.

Baloney.

There are tons of stories of people who didn't do well in some classes and then managed to turn it around. To some extent, I fit that description, myself. I got two C's in "easy" math classes, early on, but had above a 3.9 gpa in my last two years in undergrad.
 
  • #37
309
7
Thus, your point is moot.

I don't even want to go to graduate school in physics, I just find it something interesting to think about from time to time. I'll still be taking classical mechanics, E&M, and quantum despite what people like you think. I don't care if I do terrible in them, I just want to see what they are about and see the math applied to those rigorous topics.
 
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  • #38
309
7
Physics is more than just an application of math. It's a part of math. The roots of a lot of math are in physics. It's possible to be a successful mathematician without knowing any physics, but I don't know that I would recommend it. Eventually, if you go far enough in math, there are parts of physics that will just be "more math"--as I've been saying, no different from the rest of math, except as some weird superstition that you have in your mind that they are completely different subjects. You can look at some things from a very mathematical point of view, if you want.

Even when I was studying electrical engineering, I thought the theory side of it was the same thing as what I'm doing now, studying math. I use the same sort of thought processes to understand all of it.

Thank you for all these tips, I've always been interested in the more mathematical aspects of physics and proving theorems rather than doing pointless computations (I can easily prove and derive most equations out of my textbook), I am just not exceptional with the computations. I find computations to be tedious, useless, and very boring which might explain why I'm not very good at doing them.
 
  • #39
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I don't even want to go to graduate school in physics, I just find it something interesting to think about from time to time. I'll still be taking classical mechanics, E&M, and quantum despite what people like you think. I don't care if I do terrible in them, I just want to see what they are about and see the math applied to those rigorous topics.

Good for you.
 
  • #40
222
0
Graduate programs also require you take a set of obligatory physics courses. If you get a B- (less than 3.0 on a number scale) in Physics II, then what would you expect to get in Classical Mechanics, Theoretical Electrodynamics, Quantum Mechanics, Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics, all required by graduate schools? Surely, your GPA would be below 3.0, or even 2.5, which would not be enough for a grad school admission. Thus, your point is moot.

lol.. This is just not true.

My case is similar to homeomorphic's in terms of getting better as time went on. My early class grades weren't very good but almost all of my upper level physics and math classes were a lot of A's. For me, the ideas in higher level math and physics classes were much clearer than intro classes.
 

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