Help Tutoring a Friend in Calculus-Based Physics I

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In summary: It can be helpful to have a friend to quiz you on the material, and it's definitely helpful to have someone to explain concepts to you in a way that you can understand. Additionally, if your friend is struggling with a particular concept, I would recommend trying to find a video or online tutor that covers that particular topic.
  • #1
Chunkysalsa
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So my best friend and I are taking Calculus based physics I together right now and are about at the half way point.

I'm averaging a B which on the last test only 4 other people had. He is averaging an F, which is average in the class lol.

Since he is my best friend, I've offered to help him out. However I'm no teacher and I'm finding it difficult to help him out.

So far I've just been assigning him extra problems to do every day and explaining them if he gets stuck. I've noticed he has very poor algebra skills (no idea how he made an A in Calculus 2). Today I asked him to factor out velocity out of a "relatively" long conservation of energy equation and he got confused. He has a bad habit of plugging in numbers as soon as he can and our professor has a habit of asking question with no numbers and are answered symbolically.

He says he has a problem with word problems which account for 99.9999% of the problems. I keep telling him to go sentence by sentence word by word and pick out the information given and write it down. His low self confidence in his physics is a big hurdle to overcome.


His highest test score has been like a 55 and I need him to make at the minimum a C but even then will be close since the final will be very hard for him (cumulative) there is not that much time to go over the entire class up to this point.


Now I'm not being totally altruistic here. By forcing him to do extra problems, I'm forcing myself to do them too so I can answer his question. A B might be good in relation to the rest of the class, but I'd really like to get higher (not even for GPA, more for self pride). Another problem is that I can't exactly assign more problems than I can do myself since I have a part time job unlike him. Trying to get him to be studying more independently but time is very short.

We are also on rotational kinematics and dynamics, which according to you guys is the most troublesome part of physics I.


Sorry for my long rants, I'm just feeling a bit helpless for him and looking for some tips on how to help him (and prolly myself too lol).
 
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  • #2
When my friend and I were being tutored in Thermodynamics, basically we got in touch with our tutor when we thought we needed help (after a particularly difficult lab or before an exam or something), and he would come and ask us if we had any specific questions (which he would then go over with us), and if not, he'd just go through good examples from the textbook. I found this particularly helpful because it was a small group so he was able to take lots of time to explain things and I could just watch how he worked through a problem. Honestly, if he had suggested we do practice problems, I wouldn't have done it and it wouldn't have been half as helpful to me (although I'm apparently an auditory learner, so listening to someone work their way through a problem is super helpful to me). So I would suggest that you help your friend work through a few problems each time you meet (this could be helpful because it would probably mean you'd have to do fewer questions in preparation) instead of doing them independently and helping him when he's stuck, since working through a few questions each session will really cement how to go about solving them. Hopefully that makes some sense, haha.

As for the algebra part ... I may be on my own here, but I think you should tell him he needs to practice his algebra (make it blunt that he's having problems because his algebra is suffering, if that is indeed the case) and leave it up to him to work on. If he asks you for help with his algebra, that's a different situation, but if my tutor told me my Physics would improve if I improved my algebra I'd definitely independently practice it.
 
  • #3
I'm with simplybee regarding his poor algebra skills; he should grab an old precalculus text, either from the library or amazon, and start working on his trouble areas. Poor algebra skills can be remedied with a little diligence, time management, and focus. Don't spend any time trying to teach him algebra; he needs to get up to speed with that on his own.

I'm not qualified to speak about tutoring someone in physics. I've never done it, but I've helped friends with math, and here's what I've found while doing so; It is certainly beneficial to help someone work through problems -- it builds their computational and problem solving skills. However, getting them to understand difficult concepts is another animal, and it is where I've struggled as a tutor. Sometimes I just can't find the words, or the example, to make something click for them. It takes a gifted teacher, along with a solid understanding of a given subject, to be able to explain abstract concepts in many different ways.

He should be taking advantage of office hours, if he isn't already, in addition to the tutoring sessions. Hold him accountable if you don't see him applying himself. Make sure that he's doing everything he can to understand the material. The burden is on him, not you.
 
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  • #4
Thanks for all the tips guys.

As for his algebra skills, I don't think he's that bad in them, he's just not used to applying what he learned. I keep trying to give him things to solve that have no values and just symbols so he could get some practice. He knows the rules (mostly) just not the game.

Severe lack of time is really hurting us. I have two weeks to basically get him to learn all of rotational kinematics, torque, angular momentum, gyroscopic motion, rotational statics and gravitation. Alot of this stuff is older stuff reapplied to rotational bodies, and its not older stuff that he failed. I have to help him learn all of this while learning it myself. Add in other classes + work and I sure have my work cut out for me.

Another large problem is that he has no diligence, time management, or focus. I'm hoping by forcing him to work on physics everyday that'll force him to manage his time better and by extension focus on what he's doing. The fact that he's actually doing the problems I give him shows that he is trying to be diligent.
 
  • #5


I understand the challenges and frustrations that come with learning a difficult subject like calculus-based physics. It's clear that you care about your friend and want to help him succeed, and that is a great attitude to have. However, you are right in recognizing that you are not a teacher and may not have all the answers for your friend.

My first suggestion would be to encourage your friend to seek help from the professor or a tutor outside of your study sessions. Sometimes hearing the material explained in a different way can make all the difference. Additionally, the professor or a tutor may be able to identify specific areas where your friend is struggling and provide more targeted help.

In terms of your study sessions with your friend, it might be helpful to focus on the fundamental concepts and problem-solving strategies rather than just assigning extra problems. For example, instead of just giving your friend a problem to solve, try explaining the underlying principles and equations that are needed to solve the problem. This will help your friend build a stronger foundation and approach problems more confidently.

It's also important to address your friend's algebra skills. As you mentioned, algebra is a crucial component of calculus-based physics and it's important for your friend to have a strong understanding of it. You could try finding some online resources or practice problems specifically focused on improving algebra skills.

Lastly, it's important to address your friend's low self-confidence. Learning a difficult subject can be daunting and it's common to feel discouraged. Remind your friend that it's okay to struggle and that with persistence and practice, he can improve. Encourage him to focus on his progress rather than comparing himself to others.

In summary, my advice would be to encourage your friend to seek help from the professor or a tutor, focus on fundamental concepts and problem-solving strategies, address any weaknesses in algebra skills, and provide positive reinforcement and support. With dedication and hard work, I believe your friend can improve and achieve his goal of at least a C in the class. Good luck to both of you!
 

Related to Help Tutoring a Friend in Calculus-Based Physics I

1. How can I help my friend in Calculus-Based Physics I?

There are several ways you can help your friend in this subject. First, make sure you have a good understanding of the material yourself. Then, try explaining concepts to your friend in different ways until they understand. You can also work through practice problems together and provide helpful resources, such as textbooks or online tutorials.

2. What are the most challenging topics in Calculus-Based Physics I?

Some of the most challenging topics in this subject include understanding and applying calculus concepts, such as derivatives and integrals, to solve physics problems. Other difficult topics may include motion in multiple dimensions, rotational motion, and electricity and magnetism.

3. How can I make studying for Calculus-Based Physics I more efficient?

To make studying for this subject more efficient, it is important to have a clear understanding of the basic principles and concepts. Practice solving problems regularly and review your notes and class materials. You can also create study guides or flashcards to help you remember important equations and formulas.

4. What are some resources that can help my friend improve in Calculus-Based Physics I?

Some helpful resources for improving in this subject include textbooks, online tutorials and videos, practice problems and quizzes, and study groups. Your friend can also seek help from their professor or a tutor for one-on-one assistance.

5. How can I motivate my friend to do well in Calculus-Based Physics I?

One way to motivate your friend is to remind them of their goals and why they are taking this course. You can also offer to study together or create a friendly competition to see who can solve problems faster. Encourage your friend to ask questions and seek help when needed, and celebrate their successes to keep them motivated.

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