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How can I succeed in Physics this time? Will it get better?

  1. Jan 12, 2016 #1
    So last semester, I withdrew from Physics with algebra and trigonometry. I am currently enrolled with another professor and I hope I excel this time in the course. He seems more attentive and friendly, along with having a noticeable passion for Physics. Today was the first day of class and last semester I had two months of practice and was still dumb founded. I was still extremely lost and luckily the professor offers free tutoring. Is there hope? They suggest Khan Academy and Chegg online tutoring, I was thinking of hiring a private tutor on the side. I need all the advice I can get. Thank you.
     
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  3. Jan 12, 2016 #2

    mathman

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    Are you a college student or a high school (grade?) student?
     
  4. Jan 12, 2016 #3
    College student.
     
  5. Jan 12, 2016 #4

    Student100

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    What part is losing you?
     
  6. Jan 12, 2016 #5
    JESUS EVERYTHING!!!! CONVERSIONS, DIMENSIONAL ANALYSIS, WHEN TO USE TAN/COSINE/SINE FORMULAS, CHOOSING THE RIGHT FORUMLA, I ASSUME IT IS THE WORDING? I DO NOT KNOW BUT I WANT TO CRY.
     
  7. Jan 12, 2016 #6
    Here's the issue: none of your examples (except for knowing when to apply which formula) are specific to physics. In fact, based on those examples, it seems what you should really be focusing on is your mathematical background. Are you comfortable with those math topics outside of physics? Do you have a strong grounding in algebra and trig? If not, what you need to do is pull open an algebra or trig textbook and work slowly and carefully to get comfortable with those concepts.

    I'm speaking for me personally, but also I would imagine many people who are successful in physics never think of sine and cosine in terms of "formulas." You need to be comfortable with what sine and cosine represent, not just memorize some formulas. Likewise for other mathematical topics. For instance, there may be some lack of understanding that's preventing you from applying dimensional analysis successfully, because once you conceptually have it set up, it's just a matter of arithmetic. These are the prereqs for physics you need to assess your abilities in.
     
  8. Jan 12, 2016 #7
    I've gotten a B in both trigonometry and algebra.
     
  9. Jan 12, 2016 #8
    Like I said. A grade isn't necessarily indicative of deep understanding. Don't look at your grade; look hard at the problems you're facing. What about applying the trig functions is troubling you?
     
  10. Jan 13, 2016 #9
    Sounds like you don't have a holistic grasp of the mathematical basics. I suggest you start doing Khan Academy no less than 1-2 hours per day. Start at the very beginning. Yes, it will feel dumb at first as you blow past rudimentary arithmetic, but as you go you will develop a solid foundation upon which to study physics and anything else you want.
     
  11. Jan 14, 2016 #10
    Aha ! So you do admit to my point, albeit on a different thread ! :P
    Just kidding around.

    Danielle, are you having trouble of when to expand which ratio in terms of which others ? Generally, speaking use the simplest ratios possible (sin, cos, tan) . Avoid the other three or convert them to one of these three. Dimensional analysis is really fun. It lets you solve a multiple choice question very easily if you know what quantities to look for. Also, it has some very non intuitive results. Who would have dreamt that angular momentum has the same dimensions as Planck's constant ?
     
  12. Jan 15, 2016 #11
    I hate to see anyone having a bad time understanding physics. You are having trouble with conversions, dimensional analysis, when to use sine/cosine/tangent. etc.
    There is a lot there already. You might want to hire a tutor. I'm glad to hear your prof seems to have patience. I taught freshman for about 9 years, and I think I can help.

    I remember when I first studied physics, I found physics problems were unlike any of the problems I had in high school. The most important difference was physics problems are time consuming. Suppose you spend 1-2 hours on conversions (with the help of a tutor, or if you have to self-study). You may get it. Then spend an hour or two on dimensional analysis. If you have difficulty you may have to get help from prof or tutor. When to use sine/cos/tan is even harder. You may need to spend more on that. When to use sine/cos/tan is part of "resolving (breaking) a force (vector) into components" this can be difficult. It involves a lot of geometry as well as trigonometry.

    You will find that in many cases, there are no quick answers to the problems. You may find yourself drawing triangles, and saying "Let's see. These two lines are parallel and they are cut by this third line. These two (e.g. alternate interior) angles are equal (your math teacher probably said congruent). Then this other angle is complementary to that angle in a right triangle. (....Etc.)
    I know this is hard and time-consuming but it pays to be careful when you do this analysis. In my family my nieces and sister knit (and mother knitted). I know how careful they were in making their afghans, sweaters. I know when it comes to being methodical, they are a lot better than I am. You will get better with this analysis with practice.

    I think a step-by-step approach with taking your time is the best strategy. It is important not to procrastinate. It looks like you are on the ball with addressing this difficulty early on the first days of classes. After practice, you will find later problems will take less and less time. I remember learning to drive a car, I covered about 20 miles an hour, I was so scared. Later, as I became comfortable, I traveled the same route in 30 minutes.

    Trust the quality of what you learn over quantity. I think understanding e.g. 10- dimensional analysis problems completely is better than stumbling half-heartedly through 20-30 dimensional analysis problems. It also avoids a lot of drudgery. However, If you feel you need more problems to get it, then do more problems.
    Best Wishes
     
  13. Jan 15, 2016 #12

    ZapperZ

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    So, you want to learn how to build a house. Each time you show up, and you were given a task to build a section, you keep fumbling with the equipment. You can't figure out how to work the nail gun, you don't know how to operate the reciprocating saw, and you were very slow in using the drill and produce shoddy work. So you think building a house is difficult and daunting.

    The problem here isn't the task of building that house. the problem here is that you do not know how to use the tools and equipment that are NEEDED to build the house! You lack the necessary, prerequisite SKILLS that are needed to learn how to build a house!

    Before you think that a physics class is difficult and almost impossible, you need to diagnose the SOURCE of the problem. And as I had expected and based on my experience as a physics instructor, the MAJORITY of students at the intro level that have issues in a physics class, actually have problems with the MATHEMATICS, not the physics! What you have stated above are ALL MATHEMATICS! If you want to blame the fault of an instructor, blame your math teachers and classes!

    By the time a student walks into a physics class, he/she must have the mathematics required for that class. These mathematics are the TOOLS that you will need to do the physics! The instructor simply can't suspend the teaching of the physics to teach you the math that you should already know! So the problem (and the difficulty) here isn't the physics subject, it is your lack of the necessary tools that you need to do understand the physics. But unfortunately, you confused that with physics, and physics classes, being difficult (you'd have the same issue in an engineering class too!).

    Your problem is the MATH. So go study the math! Take another math class if necessary. Otherwise, you will continue not knowing where the power button is to turn on the table saw!

    Zz.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2016
  14. Jan 15, 2016 #13

    Student100

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    I think I agree and disagree. In my limited experience, students who're having issues normally struggle to set up the math, not with the raw calculations/manipulations. The trig and algebra course the OP took probably didn't require much more than computing/simplifying some expressions. This is more a fault with the way basic mathematics is taught, rather than a failure to understand the use of the tools by the student - they've likely never had to think about applying math before!

    I'm not so sure the OP will benefit from another math course in relation to their physics course, it'd likely be taught in the same way. (Keep advancing in mathematics though) Instead, I would just recommend getting a tutor (like you planned on doing) to help you with the physics/setting up math equations like you'd planned. Physical problems are a good way to learn to apply mathematics, and should also improve your skill with math at the same time.

    Don't just plan on re-enrolling without taking any steps though, you'll just meet the same fate. Don't get an online tutor, get someone who can sit down with you. Your school likely offers tutoring services for free to you, that's something to also check into. You can also ask questions here.
     
  15. Jan 15, 2016 #14
    I can definitely agree here. None of my high school math classes had any emphasis on applying the math to situations. Now in my first calculus and physics classes, I can calculate derivatives no problem, but I'm finding myself not knowing where to begin with word problems!
     
  16. Jan 15, 2016 #15

    ZapperZ

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    But look at what the OP has described as being his/her problem. Do you think he/she can solve a problem even after you set up the math?

    Just yesterday, I had to stop the class and went over basic tangent curves. Students were getting the wrong angle when they calculated an inverse tangent, somehow not realizing that this angle is in the third quadrant. And this is right before they get the answer, not at the beginning.

    Translating word problem into mathematical form is a common problem that instructors see in many classes. This, we fully expect and prepare for, at least the good ones. Many intro courses explicitly have this as a stated goal to address. But have to continuously bring up various trig rules, or how to apply chain rules in the middle of a problem is more common than you think. This is the type of problem that I anticipate the OP to have.

    Zz.
     
  17. Jan 15, 2016 #16

    Student100

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    Good point, it's hard to really know without knowing the OP more.

    The answer they gave when I asked the original question can be interpreted several different ways. That's mostly why I avoided adding anything more to the discussion (it didn't seem like they cared enough to actually coherently think/try to explain the problem!). "Knowing which equation to use" or "when to use tan, sine, cosine formulas" seemed like a failure to properly apply the math they've already learned to me. It's quite possible that isn't the issue at all, and they just don't understand the math concepts to begin with.

    It's impossible to apply something you don't even have a basic grasp of.
     
  18. Jan 15, 2016 #17

    Vanadium 50

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    I think you will find that the same students struggle with setting things up in their math classes too.
     
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