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I need some academic advice

  1. Mar 28, 2012 #1
    I am the product of a horrible excuse for a public education system, where actually teaching math without the use of a calculator simply does not exist. I am not great at math in the slightest modicum without a calculator and found this out my first year in university where they didn't allow the use of a calculator.. I withdrew from that class and since then have been bouncing around majors I find boring and have no interest in.. I have always loved the idea of physics and anyything about space, it has fascinated me since I was a child.. I am 22 now and I'm still bouncing around majors but I have not gone into a physics major because of the math prerequisite. I know if I had some math help, I could learn it. I love reading about physics and space more than anything. I feel as if I have no place, no meaning in this world and that is the cause of my perpetual apathy. I really need some advice other than a college guidance counselor basically telling me I'm too stupid to become a physics major. I don't know what to do and I'm on the verge of just not doing or caring about anything anymore. I implore you, the reader of this post.. Please help me!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 28, 2012 #2
    The maths you'll be using really doesn't involve any arithmetic at all.
    I wouldn't worry about being bad at arithmetic either, most people who do maths and physics can't do these big sums in their heads that the lay person seems to think they can do :D
  4. Mar 28, 2012 #3
    Does your school offer a class in pre-calculus, or maybe there is a local community college you can take it at?

    What's bad is when high school kids don't learn how to do graphing, solving equations, or trigonometry by hand, instead relying on a graphing calculator. Once one fully understands the principles behind pre-calculus math, there's really no harm in doing it on a calculator IMO... the issue is when one doesn't know how to do it *except on a calculator*.

    You think your main problem is inadequate high school math preparation, so there's no point in giving up on a physics major without at least trying to study up on basic math.
  5. Mar 28, 2012 #4
    Well, I sucked at math in high school. I mean, I failed a really easy stat class. I'm now a math undergrad, starting grad school in the fall. When I started college, I started at a community college and began with something called "College Algebra" which was basiclly a review of 10th grade math. Now, you don't have to start that low, but, as someone mentioned, you could start at the pre-calc level. Unless you are going some place like MIT (which I'm guessing you are not) your school should have pre-calc. Like I said, I sucked at math in high school, but pre-calc was sort of easy for me since I had already seen it (even if I sucked at it the first time I saw it), so it might be the same for you, too.
  6. Mar 28, 2012 #5
    I have moved around a lot as a kid and had the misfortune of being in some of the worst schools America has to offer (Prince Georges County, Maryland school system) As long as I remember, schools have given me a calculator (Started with the blue four function texas instruments one) So I can't even do simple multiplication.. I was never really taught it; I'm no idiot, just a product of the public education system.. I need to learn this stuff on my own because the school system has failed me as it does for many others. The highest math I completed was Alegebra II and I only used a calculator for it.. The state I was in high school in only cared about their stupid state test (SOL tests) So they did not go outside their strict curriculum and left a lot of kids lost and confused. I know I sound like a moron here, but I'm not; I just need to pick up what I never really got a chance to learn so I can study what I really want to.
  7. Mar 28, 2012 #6
  8. Mar 28, 2012 #7
    There's some good advice here already. A good idea is to just read books about subjects you think you're bad in, starting with the most basic stuff. Then, when you think you know how stuff works, move on to the next. And so on and so forth. Also, like genericus said, you won't really need a calculator because you're not going to do a lot of arithmetic. Instead of simply echoing what he said, here's a funny comic :smile:
  9. Mar 30, 2012 #8
    I think Khan Academy is probably your best bet. Honestly, I struggled tremendously with algebra based courses, and barely passed pre-calculus. Just be sure that you're determined and motivated, the teacher (or professor) will notice your effort and be more than glad to help you. My pre-calc professor often tacked on a few extra percent points here and there just because. :) Now that I'm in calculus, all I need to know how to do is crunch numbers based on a theorem or some concept. Speaking of math, may I ask for some suggestions on studying for it? No matter how hard I study, my test grades are always in the B or C range. Quizzes are quite the opposite because my average quiz grade is an 11/10.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2012
  10. Mar 31, 2012 #9
    Learn and understand the underlying concepts, try picking up some more proofy books. If you're already reading proofy books then learn those proofs to the point where you could recite them if required, understand what you're doing during the proof and try and get an intuative feel for why it works!
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