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High School Text

  1. May 15, 2008 #1
    Next year (senior year) I'm going to take physics, but, quite frankly, I can't wait until then. Summer fast approaches, and I'll have a three month break to allocate my time to studies to 'get ahead' and squelch my lack of education with respect to some subjects. I plan to dedicate an hour or two a day to studying physics, and hope to get through the better part of a textbook (or decently far into it) before entering my senior high school year.

    I have a very good command of Algebra, and a decent command of Trigonometry (need more practice with identities, but well enough excluding that), and am working on Calculus, but would rather use a textbook which uses math no higher than Algebra/Trigonometry since I don't have a good command of Calculus yet. Boldly stated, what's the best Physics textbook I can use that doesn't require Calculus?

    I have a few Physics textbooks already (older sibling's textbooks), but they are, quite frankly, candy-ass textbooks; nothing but big colorful diagrams, and useless, disorganized crap in between the diagrams. I was thinking something fairly rigorous, but makes the concepts interesting, ordered progressively, and most importantly, doesn't use Calculus.

    I was looking at this text on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Physics-Prin..._bbs_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1210900654&sr=1-1"

    But I'd prefer to get your opinions before shelling out $75 (used) for a book that might not be any good (though the reviews seem to be in the text's favor).

    In any case, I'd really appreciate some help finding a textbook worth spending my time and money on, thanks very much.

    - Danno
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. May 15, 2008 #2
    This might not be of help too much, but try looking into the Textbooks section in this same forums (it is a subforum). I am sure I have seen some people give certain advice on some very good physics textbooks.
  4. May 15, 2008 #3
    I reviewed eight texts when choosing a new text for my Jr/Sr non-calculus-based upper level physics class. Among them were Giancoli, Glencoe, and several others that slip my mind at the moment.

    The one that really stood out overall for this particular application was the Holt Physics book (Serway et.al).

    I'm looking toward teaching AP or college level physics in the future; if I do AP, I will probably go with the Giancoli text, and if I offer a college section I may very well go with my tried and true Serway-Beichner "Physics for Scientists and Engineers".

    Why don't you ask your future physics teacher if you can borrow a textbook over the summer? You might as well get used to the one you'll be using in class.
  5. May 16, 2008 #4
    I've referred to Walker from time to time and I think it's a pretty good book for an algebra based introduction. The only thing is that the exercises are way too easy and they might inadvertently teach you poor problem solving strategies i.e. "formula hunting".

    If you haven't taken pre-AP physics yet the best thing for you though would be to get a general physics textbook, just so that you can see the concepts first before the math and problem solving. A strong conceptual foundation is the most important element of learning introductory physics.
  6. May 16, 2008 #5
    With this advice in mind, I think I will order Giancoli's text, as the reviewers say it spends most of it's time on the conceptual aspects of physics rather than the math.

    The Holt and Walker reviews seem to be mixed (with the majority being bad reviews for Walker). So I might as well try the alternative. Thanks,

    - Danno
  7. May 16, 2008 #6
    That sounds like a good call for the reason that you said, and also because Giancoli has better exercises.
  8. May 16, 2008 #7
    If you want rigor instead of big colorful diagrams, you'll be hard pressed to find it in a book that doesn't use calculus. Newton's mechanics come directly from calculus, and while you can use calculus to derive the rules behind the scenes and then present a bunch of random formulas from thin air, this is kind of a silly thing. Instead of wasting time with algebra-based physics, spend the summer learning calculus thoroughly. You'll be better prepared to learn "rigorous" physics as a result.
  9. May 16, 2008 #8
    Honestly a standard textbook like Halliday's fundamental of Physics shouldn't be beyond your range despite your lack of calculus. For the first twenty chapters you do derivatives sometimes and integral even less. Some of the integrals can be solved just by basic geometry formulas.
  10. May 16, 2008 #9
    Best non-calc based physics is Cutnell & Johnson's Physics. Its at a really good level, and has some challenging problems. Its like Halliday without the calc.
  11. May 16, 2008 #10
    It's one of your last truly carefree summers, so I'd suggest not letting it pass you by. However, I would still recommend you self-study, just don't sacrifice anything "fun" for it. But if studying is your definition of "fun", welcome to the club and enjoy summer however you'd like :)

    Anyways. I would suggest learning some calculus and some physics together. The two subjects really are crippled when studied without one another; without physics, calculus sometimes seems too abstract, and without calculus, physics concepts and formulas seem to just come out of thin air. Don't study too in depth in either, but enough to satisfy your curiosity and get you far ahead of the class - I'd recommend covering differentiation and roughly the first half of mechanics.

    Take care

    /edit: Oh, we used that textbook in my AP Physics course. It was pretty good, but I was completely frustrated by the lack of calculus, and ended up seeking out Serway and Jewett's textbook.
    Last edited: May 16, 2008
  12. May 16, 2008 #11
    Get ahead in the rat race, while you can.

    There is only so much cheese for so many rats!

    Sorry...couldn't resist saying that...

    But, Halliday Resnick should be pretty good, I started reading it when I wasn't too great at calculus, but it was still easy to understand what was being explained (as someone else mentioned, the calculus is pretty basic in the book).

    In any case, I've never wasted a single summer of my life studying, but instead used them to do cool things (like travelling or socializing with friends). School is for studying, and I study well during school time. Worked well for me.
    Last edited: May 16, 2008
  13. May 16, 2008 #12


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    heres one for a dollar:

    Physics (ISBN: 0136726275)
    Douglas C. Giancoli
    Bookseller: thriftbooks.com
    (Auburn, WA, U.S.A.)
    Bookseller Rating:
    Price: US$ 1.00
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    US$ 3.95
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    Book Description: Longman Higher Education. Book Condition: Good. Dust Cover Missing. Spend Less. Read More. Millions of satisfied customers and climbing. Thriftbooks is the name you can trust, guaranteed. Bookseller Inventory # G0136726275I3N01
  14. May 16, 2008 #13
    My situation is quite similar to yours, except I borrowed a Calculus book from the school for the summer, and my friend has the newest "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" that he is going to let me borrow. I am actually taking non-calculus physics next year, but i figured if i got a good understanding of mechanics, i might take the ap physics c test.
  15. May 16, 2008 #14
    If you want rigor, I don't see why you would not learn from a calculus-based book. I self-studied AP Physics C this year using Serway's book (after self-studying AP Calculus AB) and believe me when I say I was extremely surprised at the lack of calculus. The first several chapters only very rarely asked for you to know some calculus, and even then it was purely to understand conceptual derivations: you did not need to form anything fancy in the mathematics problems whatsoever. The hardest part of that book period is problem solving: the calculus is extremely elementary, and grows progressively more sophisticated as you get deeper into the course, but it never reached a level that I thought that the math was challenging whatsoever: only the physics was challenging.

    I don't even think I saw an integral until around chapter 6-8 or so, and even then it was about as simple as integrals can get. Do not let the calculus scare you: as someone mentioned earlier, these classes complement each other fantastically, and you'll feel you understand so much more of where physics comes from using extremely elementary calculus.
  16. May 16, 2008 #15


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    I like the Giancolli book, I've used it for tutoring h.s. and college non-major physics students. My only beef is the later chapters covering topics that probably don't belong in this book (eg. cosmology and general relativity). The first 1/2 to 2/3 of the book, through electromagnetism at least, are quite suitable however.
  17. May 17, 2008 #16
    Thanks for the feedback.

    It seems to me that many of you think I should use a Calculus-based physics book in addition to my Calculus studies. As long as the text doesn't go to deeply into Calculus (and taking into account all the valuable benefits mentioned by JoeTrumpet, Tickitata, RedAlert, will.c, and PowerIso), I wouldn't mind using Calculus-based text.

    Since this seems in my best interest, which modest Calculus containing text would you recommend being that a couple have been mentioned (Halliday, and Serway, for instance)?
  18. May 17, 2008 #17
    I would rec Halliday, Resnick and Walker because the examples are good, the exercises are challenging and there are many web resources associated with the text.
  19. Jul 1, 2008 #18

    I use either Holt Physics (or you could use Modern Physics, also by Holt) in teaching physics to high school juniors. You don't need anything beyond trigonometry, the problems range from simple to challenging, and my students learn physics and enjoy the course. If you get through the first 10 chapters during the summer, you'll be way ahead of everyone else.
  20. Jul 1, 2008 #19
    "I have a very good command of Algebra, and a decent command of Trigonometry"
    You're ready for high school physics. Those are by far the most important maths you'll use. Even college-level "physics with calculus" barely uses any calculus at all.
    Velocity = the derivative of position
    Acceleration = the derivative of velocity
    That's about all you need to know.

    "need more practice with identities..."
    You don't need to memorize any identities. Being familiar with them and knowing how to look them up is enough. sin²Θ + cos²Θ = 1 comes up a lot, but that's the only one I know off-hand. When I see sin(2Θ), I just look up the double-angle identities on the inside cover of the textbook to see if it makes the solution more aesthetically pleasing. Sometimes it won't.

    "I was thinking something fairly rigorous, but...doesn't use Calculus"
    Sorry...can't have it both ways.

    If you're nervous about doing badly, don't be. More than likely, none of the other kids will have thought about physics since the bell rang on the last day of school. I don't know why people make physics about to be so challenging. I found chemistry and biology to be more difficult, since they demand a lot of memorization. Once you understand the concepts of physics, it all falls into place.

    I recommend casual reading for you. Try the Feynman Lectures. Start out with "Six Easy Pieces".
  21. Aug 20, 2008 #20
    Understanding Physics - by Isaac Asimov
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