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Homework Help: I need help

  1. Mar 2, 2004 #1
    I need help. I'm studying physics, electricity and magnetism. I'm completely lost. My teacher does nothing for me, I have learned absolutely nothing from her since the course began. What I have learned, I have learned from doing homework problems and inferring from those who help me here. The book does nothing for me, the lectures are useless, I've taken to copying down the finished equations, because the explanations do that little for me. There are help sessions, I can only make it on Friday, group study does wonders for me, often the others students are as lost as I. My teachers help is worse than doing it myself.

    I can't do this anymore. We've started the chapter on electrical potential and I haven't the faintest inkling of how to begin the homework problems, nor can I do them without significant effort on the part of the helpful people here. I want to be able to do something so I'm not completely lost on the test. Is there a better way?

    I learn most easily, from people. I have had immense success in my college career up to this point, talking with teachers, doing the homework, getting help from students. I seem to have a problem with physics in general, I had a similar problem with 4a (basic physics), I don't grasp something fundamental about the thought patterns of a successful physics problem solver.

    I know what I need. I need a person to talk to, to explain the concepts, that knows the material so well, that I can ask questions and have them answered in a cogent and sequential manner. I need written material, whose author is writing about something rather than writing about dry concepts I'm automatically expected to understand. I need someone to put soul in physics, to explain it as a living breathing person might, rather than a textbook would. I need someone or something that will explain a concept from multiple "directions" so that I can find my own way, teach myself. I need someone who will not get impatient and "fly" above my head, jumping from concept to concept before I can think (my teacher).

    Is there anything I can do?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2004 #2
    Talk about the blind leading the blind...

    YOU POOR THING! Are we in the same class?

    Same problems: Bad teacher, bad book, bad karma, unusual learning style.

    I think you are on the right track in throwing yourself on the mercy of the denizens of the Homework Board. Don't be shy about asking for help about specific problems. Be sure to show what you've already done so they'll know where you went wrong. They can get kind of grumpy if you don't show the work. ***Don't be proud; beg for additional replies when needed.*** They may laugh, but they will come through for you! I call it needing "rabbits out of a hat." Sometimes we need lots and lots of rabbits before we can recognize a pattern. Each person's answer is in a different style. SOMEONE will have just the right kind of bunnie rabbit for you. You'll learn who's a good matchup for you and jump for joy when you see they've answered a problem!

    Is there another physics professor where you are? Preferably someone who despises your professor, ha ha...someone who might be willing to let you use his/her office hours to ask for clarification? CAN YOU GO TO THE BOOKSTORE OR A USED BOOKSTORE AND BUY SOME OTHER BOOKS, NOT THE ONE BEING USED IN THE COURSE? Are there any grad students around who can help you out? Maybe you can trade: they help you, you bring them something to eat. They like that.

    Don't lose heart. I know several successful physicists who failed first-year physics. Yep. And lots of engineers and just loads of doctors who had trouble with it. Good luck to you.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2004
  4. Mar 2, 2004 #3
    Someone else please help poor Sparky, I am witless, we need the brainy folks here.
  5. Mar 2, 2004 #4
    Wow Holly, good advice. I never even thought about asking another professor. Of course the shape I was in when I wrote that I probably couldn't done anything creative much less constructive. I'll try some of those things tomorrow. Heh your adivce may have stopped other from responding, thanks again.

  6. Mar 2, 2004 #5
    If you learn by talking with people, then you need to find people who will talk. Ask the other students in your class. There's bound to be somebody that's getting it. If not, try somebody the next level up who just finished the class you're in. If you're really lucky, you'll find somebody who can explain the same thing in a bunch of different ways. If still no luck, I suppose you could always hire a tutor.

    All in all, I think holly's advice is pretty good. And if it makes you feel better, I don't take notes either. In fact, I fell asleep in class just last Thursday and didn't even go today... I'm such a terrible person.

  7. Mar 3, 2004 #6
    POST AWAY!!! That is what keeps this board running. I know that just reading posts by other people helps me to understand my own class material better. And when I see something that I have already covered, it helps me to review and keep it fresh in my mind.
    I have also posted my own questions and been very happy with the responses I have received.

    In addition to the ideas Cookiemonster posted, you might want to try some other book or study guide to supplement your text and class. I would recommend the Schaum's Outlines series. They are basically workbooks. They give a cut-to-the-chase explanation of thoery's and concepts, then a ton of worked out examples of problems, plus addition problems for you to work out. I like to work out the examples they give, and if I get stuck I refer to the books method.

    How do you manage without taking notes? Apparently you do fine based on your responses to questions. While I am not a compulsive note taker, i.e. writing down every single thing the prof says or writes, I think my class notes are important for studying. Especially the examples that are given in class. I understand the value of listening and paying attention to the prof's explanations of theory etc., but I find it is quickly forgotten if I only hear it, and then have to decipher everything else from the text. I take notes of items I feel are important at that time, and then I have them to review and remind me all semester.
  8. Mar 3, 2004 #7
    As a grad student myself...
    If a undergrad student (who I wasn't teaching) offered to buy my lunch once or twice a week for an hour or two of tutoring... I would jump for joy. That is an awesome trade for us lonely and poor graduate students.
    My advice is to contact the physics department at your school and ask if they have any tutors. Also put up some signs or most schools have rooms full of little cubicles where the grad students live. Just go in there and ask around.
    Good luck,
  9. Mar 4, 2004 #8
    I started out not taking notes at all. I used to have a photographic memory when I was a kid (emphased on "used to"), and I never understood why people wrote things down. I just remembered them. The teacher always got mad at me because I never wrote down which math problems (3, 11, 12, 15, 19, 21-29 eoo, anyone?) we were supposed to do and thought I just did random problems or something. Always managed to remember somehow.

    Well, like most photographic memories, mine didn't last. So I started to write things down like normal. And then I realized that I never looked at them either way, so I kinda figured my time in class would be more productively used paying attention and concentrating on a concept instead of concentrating on writing things. Half the time the prof ends up just covering the book word-for-word so I stop paying attention and just read the book. Books work pretty well for me.

    So now I don't take notes anymore. If I ever need a formula, I usually just derive it or look in a textbook.

    As for examples and methods for solving problems, I still remember those easily. If I see it once, I can usually pull it off on my own.

    One thing I've found out that works for me when it comes to learning from a book. If you really need to remember how to do something or how to derive something or how to prove something, prove it on your own the same way the book does. If you get stuck, look in the book to see the next step and go from there. Once you do it entirely on your own for the first time, it seems to stick a lot better than just seeing it or reading it.

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