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How much trig should I know before taking calculus based physics?

  1. Jan 18, 2014 #1
    I'm taking my first semester of calculus based physics next week. How much trig should I know? I know the basics and inverse trig functions and stuff but should i know about trignometric equations, double angle and half angle formulas, product-to-sum and sum-to-product formulas?

    I passed both calculus 1 and calculus 2.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 18, 2014 #2


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    You are all set....presumably you did well in algebra as well....that is important. Master the basic properties of a right triangle.
  4. Jan 18, 2014 #3
    I think what you know might be enough.
  5. Jan 18, 2014 #4
    For me, it is enough that I know there are all sorts of trig identities. I do remember a few very basic ones. When I come across some tricky trig which I cannot handle with what I remember, I just go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_trigonometric_identities. Of course, if you are going to be given some problems which you have to solve without using any help whatsoever, that is not helpful. One way to deal with that is memorize Euler's formula, which is very simple. Then you can easily derive most of trig identities from it, as shown here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euler's_formula#Relationship_to_trigonometry
  6. Jan 18, 2014 #5


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    You don't actually have to know all those trig identities and formulae but you do need to be aware of them and know where you can find them when you need them. Way down the line there are endless identities and transforms you will need to be familiar with but they come in bite sized portions as you progress.
    The worst thing about calculus based physics can be recognising the standard integrals when they turn up with odd symbols and constants in them. Practice will help.
  7. Jan 18, 2014 #6
    Ask your professor! Also, cover your homework very well. If a particular math method is used in your homework, assume it will be on the test. It's rare to get a professor that will throw you a curve ball without warning.
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