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How much calculus is needed for physics

  1. Nov 17, 2012 #1
    I want to self study physics from Halliday's Fundamentals of Physics.I know that I can't study physics without calculus,but I am asking you how much of it I need to know for each area.
    I am studying it from Stewart's Calculus 7th edition.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 17, 2012 #2
    Well first, you might want to get a better calculus textbook. I suggest using Spivak for complete understanding; but if you don't care so much for completeness and only need calculus to use as a tool to tackle physics problems I suggest you go with something like Kline's book.

    Stewart's book is horrible

  4. Nov 17, 2012 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Not a whole lot. At this level, all you need is basic knowledge of derivatives and integrals, and how to apply them to simple functions like polynomials and trig functions.

    In the US, students often take an intro physics course at this level concurrently with the first two semesters of calculus.
  5. Nov 17, 2012 #4
    I disagree. For what the OP needs, Stewart is fine.

    Is it the best Calculus book? No. But he doesn't need Spivak to start with some basic physics.
  6. Nov 17, 2012 #5
    Just because it is sufficient to teach him what he needs to know for Halliday doesn't mean that he should be learning Calculus from it.

    I would agree that Spivak would be a little over the top, but there are other books (Lang's A First Course in Calculus, for example).
  7. Nov 18, 2012 #6
    What do you mean by saying Stewart's is bad?I got up to chapter 3(Applications of Differentiation) and I didn't have any trouble understanding it.
  8. Nov 18, 2012 #7


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    Education Advisor

    I think what they are trying to say the book lacks 'rigor' of some sort. In my opinion though, it will be fine for a first brush with Calculus if all you are looking for is how to use the techniques and have a lot of problems to practice with.

    If you ever feel like getting a more theortical view on Calculus there are options, but I don't think everyone needs or wants that.
  9. Nov 18, 2012 #8
    Well,I'll be studying calculus at school next year so I'll get a chance to really understand calculus then.I am studying for the physics olympiad now.Can anyone tell me how much calculus do I need for every branch of physics up to quantum mechanics?
    Also,for solving more difficult physics problems,do I need to know more maths?
  10. Nov 18, 2012 #9
    Like Marne said, the book lacks any sort of rigor, which isn't a good thing. Being able to understand a book doesn't mean that it's good.

    Although you did say that you'll be learning Calculus next year in school, so as long as Stewart isn't your only source for learning Calculus, you should be fine.
  11. Nov 18, 2012 #10
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  12. Nov 19, 2012 #11
    This seems like a great book for my needs.Can anyone tell me some place where I can download or buy it in pdf format?I'd have a pretty hard time getting a copy of the book in the country where I live in.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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