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I have a really important question about physics

  1. Sep 4, 2010 #1
    hi, i am a freshman and i really enjoy physics. With other homework like programming, biology, or english (i hate english) i seem to be aware of the time spent doing the problems and studying from the text book, but when i do physics i loose track of time and i really enjoy it. I am pretty good at math, but for some reason it takes me a really long time to solve simple kinematic equations.

    i usually will get the right answer; it just takes to long for my liking and it would be a huge detriment when taking a quiz or a test. What can i do to improve my problem solving ability in physics. In regards to getting a problem right away. (just taking your standard intro course for majors in physics currently). Does it just come with doing alot of problems? or do you have any tips i could do to improve in physics.

    With math, i got a 5 on my ap calc ab test, and i scored a perfect on my math placement test. What i noticed is, (somewhat disconcerting) is that i am good at math because i know how to mechanically solve problems. When i took a quick peek at spivak i noticed that i was not very good at proofs. But if you give me a really hard derivative problem, i'll recognize the mechanical steps needed to solve it but i won't actually know why the answer is the answer. I think that is the reason why physics is a bit tough for me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 4, 2010 #2


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    Whether you hate English or not, it will make a big difference for your career (academic or otherwise). For better or worse, successful proposal writing as well as papers for publication require clarity, if nothing else.
  4. Sep 4, 2010 #3
    Just practice, practice, practice.

  5. Sep 4, 2010 #4
    Understand the derivations of the equations and theorems you use. These show you why and how it works. You can find these in the text, online, or from your instructor.

    You become faster by understanding the material better; not by taking shortcuts.
  6. Sep 5, 2010 #5


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    Gold Member

    Practice alot. Solve alot of problems. You will get quicker and better at it with time.

    Remember problems in math and physics that you will get in university courses will require a different way of thinking than most math and physics you did in high school. Even if your good at math, you may still struggle as you get used to university level work.

    This will be even more true when you get into upper level physics courses and proof based math courses.
  7. Sep 5, 2010 #6
    I don't want to take away from your good question because you are wise to try to improve your speed and skills, and it is not unreasonable to want to do well on tests.

    However, thinking long term, being able to solve problems and to get the right answer is more important than speed in the real world. The idea that a problem needs to be solved in 15 minutes (as in a test situation) is not relevant to the real world. Real-world problems take days, weeks, months and sometimes even years to solve. Even homework level problems, that may take an hour, are just practice, albeit good and useful practice.

    Personally, I was very fast at solving problems back in school and typically did well on tests, sometimes flying by the seat of my pants, with less than optimal study-time. I have now completely lost this ability (due to age and lack of need) and I don't miss it at all. When I first started working on real problems I would miss too much by not thinking all possibilities through. Now I take my time, and ironically the full problem solving process takes less overall time because no time is wasted backtracking because of oversights. You see, the real world is much more complex than the very contrived problems we are given in school.
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2010
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