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I don't understand physics

  1. Feb 1, 2016 #1
    I am a junior in High School and I am absolutely stuck in the mud. Right now I'm learning about kinetic and potential energy along with springs. The formulas are easy but it's the questions that I driving me nuts. I literally have to do 5 questions worth of work just to solve what one value is. My class is full of "Nerds" and it seems they pickup on this stuff faster than me with some of them as sophomores. It's honestly infuriating that I'm getting outclassed by sophomores. At this point I'm steaming or rather erupting like a volcano.

    And so I ask this physics community:
    It's honestly tearing me apart.

    I learn all these formulas and somehow there's always that one question that obliterates their meaning to me and as a result I get the problem wrong.
    How do I approach physics problems because I'm growing more and more volatile.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 1, 2016 #2
    Practice! Physics isn't a spectator sport. The main reason homework helpers here can so easily guide students for many physics problems is that they've struggled with and figured out the same or similar problems in the past.

    The only time you need to know physics is when you set up the equations. The rest is just algebra--but you need to understand the physics to set up the equations, and to do that, you need to practice.

    You need to know, for instance with energies, that the amount of energy you have at the start of a problem should equal the amount of energy you have at the end. That kind of knowledge helps you set up the equations you need.

    Also, it's irrelevant if sophomores are doing better than you. There are sophomores in high school out there who are doing better than me, and I'm a Junior in college. Learn from them. It's not a competition.
  4. Feb 1, 2016 #3
    Using disparaging comments to describe your more successful classmates doesn't reflect all that well on you...
  5. Feb 1, 2016 #4
    To the first poster,
    I thank you for the insight. I was caught in a bad moment, having felt stupid as the entire class was way ahead of me. I'm already starting my physics homework and sailing through it with flying colors.
    And to the second, I didn't mean to disparage them. I respect nerds, just not pompous ones.

    But thank you all.
    Good day
  6. Feb 1, 2016 #5
    Maybe stop referring to them as nerds then.
  7. Feb 1, 2016 #6

    But what if they refer to themselves as such, even the teacher calls himself a nerd. Im being honest, they take pride in being called nerds
  8. Feb 1, 2016 #7
    It's fine then. But just realize that not everybody enjoys being categorized like that.
  9. Feb 1, 2016 #8
    I know. As always use discretion when socializing or analyzing social situations.
    But thanks for helping me. I may be back soon with a question on the homework help.
    I just had a bad day
  10. Feb 1, 2016 #9
    Yeah, don't worry. Everybody studying physics has had their share of bad days. But hard work really pays off with physics. Hard work and good study habits.
  11. Feb 1, 2016 #10
    Sure does.
    Right now I'm just looking back on my old homework for reference and listening to music
  12. Feb 6, 2016 #11
    I'll have to agree with axmls -- practice is key. Anybody can plug-and-chug energy balances, but the true key to excelling at physics is understanding the equations in not just numbers, but also words. I'd encourage you to first make sure you spend plenty of time understanding the equations conceptually (e.g. thoroughly reading each chapter), and then focus on applying that conceptual understanding by working out as many practice problems as you can. Don't fall into the trap of merely learning what each variable in the equation stands for and then hoping exam problems directly feed you these values so you can simply plug them in to yield a correct answer -- this rarely works in an academic setting and doesn't work whatsoever in an experimental setting! This guiding principle is what turned my physics education into a lifelong basis for the rest of my academics
  13. Feb 6, 2016 #12
    While it in inconvenient to have to spend 5x the time on questions someone else do to get the same passing mark, that doesn't mean anything in itself, except it takes you more energy and time.

    The quality of your understanding is what matters. How much effort you have to put in to reach understanding something in general doesn't relate to how well you understand something when you can solve the test problems.

    Once you actually start to do academic/intellectual stuff in your research area, all kinds of different forces come into play. Being able to master problem sets with little effort may come back and bite them because suddenly the game has changed for them, but not for you.

    Often, people who are super-smart get bored or interested in different things, so they never have enough focus and are never productive. Others suddenly develop and grow when the pressure to pass a test is gone and real problems have to be solved. A student that was disinterested and not motivated during the degree may suddenly blossom as a researcher.
  14. Feb 10, 2016 #13
    Maybe your understanding of mathematics is holding you back.


    a free pdf site for students.

    Poor skills in mathematics will hold you back quite a bit. ^The above resources aren't a comprehensive coverage of the topics (eg history, significance of the concepts, the way they are presented) but they are enough for practice.

    A set of books I recommend is:

    Schaums basic mathematics with applications to science and technology.
    Schaums outline of college algebra. (chapters 1 to 7).

    Ps: I had taken mechanics for my AS levels, but not physics for my a levels (mechanics was offered as a seperate subject). We had two mock exams, first exam I got 10/50...after that I practiced 100s of papers and questions after re reading all chapters, but mostly I focused on practice. Next exam I got the highest in the class. However, due to shaky fundamentals (I just practised a lot of questions, didn't learn the concepts properly) I got 35/50 in the main exam. My maths was poor, I didn't know how to round off properly (!) and the concepts were not clear.

    Practice is important, but re reading and understanding each concept clearly is equally as important. If you are having trouble it means you haven't learned as best as you should (this could be due to weak maths or just wrong way of learning). Good notes are essential. You also sound a tiny bit jealous and immature, which will not help and hence you must get rid of this attitude.
  15. Feb 10, 2016 #14
    I need help because I'm simply tired of
    I'm literally in tears at this point. There's a test tomorrow and that adds salt to the wound. I literally feel depressed every time I leave that classroom. All of my teachers comment why do I look gloomyou and obviouslyrics I got beat like a drum in physics.
  16. Feb 10, 2016 #15
    You are a 15 (?) year old boy, stop taking this so seriously..It's just a test. I think you yearn to excel in the best possible in physics, and perhaps you took my advice in the wrong way. Anyway, I have been known to phrase advice poorly (I have mental problems).

    I have failed many tests What I regret is not learning from them as much as I should have.

    "Theres more to learn from failure than success" and its just one test? So just study well and enjoy your youth. Soon you'll hit 20s and more practical issues will dominate your life (a few tests in high school should not hold any determined person back). You really seem to be taking this all very seriously, which is a good thing to a certain extent...but should not feel depressed, that is destroying your body mentally and physically. In short, I am sure you will do fine at the test, and just study well and find yourself at this age. Work on the maths, learning and having fun. I have learnt (as many older people do) that Emotional reactions do not serve this purpose.

    I studied the same topics back in year 9 like you too, it wasn't too difficult and I barely revised for the exam but did okay as far as I remember for my gcses (B)..so dont worry.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2016
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