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High school through Undergrad Math Outline

  1. Sep 14, 2009 #1
    Hi, first time poster. I apologize if this topic has been done over and over, but I couldn't find an answer that suited my needs.

    So anyway, I've decided to return to college at age 30. I originally went for CompSci and dropped out to cash in on the dot com craze. That went well until a series of unfortunate events that have left me where I am today, broke with nothing to show for it, lol.

    I want to study physics. How far, well I'll cross that bridge when I get to it, but I can see myself perhaps working towards a masters as I want at least a cursory knowledge in the advanced stuff.

    For all the programming I've done since college, I haven't used any math more advanced than maybe pre-algebra. I did finish Calculus I in college, but I'd really like to review it again to be sure I've not forgotten anything. In high school I took Algebra 1+2, Geometry, and the semester each of trig and precalc my senior year.

    I want to of course review all of these before going back to school, and review college algebra and calculus to decide if I need to take them once more. One question I cannot figure out, is geometry necessary to start getting my feet wet in college level physics? I have two nieces that are in different high schools in the area, neither college prep track they are taking includes geometry, but does include trig and precalc.

    I may be getting ahead of myself, but what other mathematics beyond college algebra and calculus would one need to take for a BS in physics? I realize that may be best left to an academic adviser, but I haven't even enrolled yet, and I'm quite impatient :P

    Thanks in advance for any help
     
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  3. Sep 14, 2009 #2

    dx

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    Yes, you will need some simple analytic geometry for college level physics. Things like cartesian coordinates; representing circles, lines, planes etc by algebraic equations and so on.

    You will need to have some familiarity with linear algebra, vector calculus, differential equations, fourier analysis, and maybe tensor analysis if you get to general relativity.
     
  4. Sep 14, 2009 #3
    Apart from Calculus I (limits and derivatives) you are required to do at least Calculus II (integrals), Calculus III (multivariable), and an Introductory cource in Differential Equations (Ordinary Differential Equation course). Some universities might require you to do Linear Algebra as well.

    You do NOT need to take vector calculus, fourtie analysis, tensor analysis for BS in physics. If you want a better understanding you can take it but it's not required.

    It is very important that you know your Calculus I stuff (at least cover limit and derivatives on your own) as all the following Calculus and Differential Equations courses will depend on it.


    is geometry important? Sure, where isn't? It's good if you review some basic stuff again but don't kill yourself over it. You'll be doing some geometry type stuff (i dunno how exactly to put it) in Calculus III. It will be of great importance in Physics.
     
  5. Sep 14, 2009 #4

    dx

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    Yes, you DO need to take vector calculus and fourier analysis. These are very very very basic things, especially vector calculus. A person who doesn't know vector calculus also doesn't know electrodynamics, and anyone who doesn't know electrodynamics does not deserve a BSc in physics. A person who doesn't know fourier analysis also doesn't understand basic quantum mechanics, and anyone who doesn't know basic quantum mechanics does not deserve a BSc in physics.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2009
  6. Sep 14, 2009 #5

    symbolipoint

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    You can very well skip the remedial Geometry course, but studying it is still very good for you. You can start your review with Intermediate Algebra and then to Trigonometry; then you should be ready for Calculus 1 if the school lets you; otherwise you may need Pre-Calculus.
     
  7. Sep 14, 2009 #6

    fluidistic

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    Well said, I absolutely agree with this.
     
  8. Sep 14, 2009 #7
    NO YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO TAKE THOSE COURSES FOR UNDERGRAD PHYSICS.

    I have checked math requirement for multiple universities here and they do not require vector calculus at all.

    I think even Physics department @ MIT closes off with Differential Equations and two more math courses (Linear Algebra and Complex Variables being the recommended one).


    edit: "<snip>...does not deserve a BSc in physics"

    who are you to say one does not deserve a BS in Physics? If someone completes the requirement, they well damn deserve it. He asked about the mathematics requirement, not about what you think is required, totally different things.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2009
  9. Sep 14, 2009 #8

    fluidistic

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    Hey rubrix, no offense but... vector calculus is a must to understand Maxwell's equations.
    I don't see how can one go on for a Phd without having touched Maxwell's equations.
     
  10. Sep 14, 2009 #9
    Thanks for the insight everyone,

    I should clarify I suppose. I'm interested in the requirements that will help give me as deep an understanding of undergrad physics as possible, as I may decide to go on to the graduate level. The only corner I'm trying to cut at this point is whether or not to do an in depth review of high school geometry, as I recall it being easy and slightly boring. I might as well do so I guess.

    Other than that small obstacle, I don't intend to shy away from any math. I dislike not being a humble person, but I was quite good at every math course I ever took. I'm simply concerned as I haven't kept my skills up over the years.

    Thanks again
     
  11. Sep 14, 2009 #10

    thrill3rnit3

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    Vector Calculus is taught in Calculus III, and Fourier Analysis/Tensor Analysis is usually taught in a "mathematics methods for physicists" or in the physics course (where it is needed) itself.

    So you can't say it's "not needed" just because the degree doesn't require the student to take the actual "math class" itself. It is pretty much embedded in some kind of physics/math methods course.
     
  12. Sep 14, 2009 #11

    lurflurf

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    The horror! Would you want to learn Botany from cabnet maker?
     
  13. Sep 14, 2009 #12

    thrill3rnit3

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    yeah because physics and math are soo unrelated as botany and cabinet making :rolleyes:

    The math needed in physics courses is usually taught in the physics class itself (at least here in the U.S.). If you want you can always get a book and self study it.
     
  14. Sep 14, 2009 #13
    that makes sense.

    I saw "Vector Calculus" course somewhere which meant something else than Calc III. I believe they were referring to a sequence course of Calc III.

    If i remember correctly fourier comes up with DE or (or perhaps in one of the calc course) course too.


    i guess we had a misunderstanding since he was talking about particular topics in mathematics and i was talking about particular courses. See he was listed courses first "linear algebra, vector calculus, differential equations" and then listed topics "...fourier analysis, and maybe tensor analysis" consequently. I took all of them as course titles. My apologies.

    Calc I, Calc II, Calc III, ODE, and perhaps (Applied) Linear Algebra and (Applied) Complex Analysis and you are set.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2009
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