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I want to get good at math and physics. Tell me how?

  1. Oct 26, 2009 #1
    I'm a freshman physics/math dual major. Everybody's dream. My important classes are Honors Physics I, Differential Equations, and Multivariable Calculus. Using Halliday, Resnick, and Krane for physics. Stewart's for calculus. It's an engineering school and I want to learn both theory and application. HRK seems cursory, Stewart's is good.

    I took the 12+ AP courses route in high school. Apparently I've been shortchanged though. I've read Spivak's is the go to for calculus, and afterwards Apostol. What about for physics? I read some of Feynman's lighter stuff and now I am working my way through the Definitive Edition of his Lectures on Physics. I'll be taking Honors Physics II, Intro to Complex Variables, Advanced Calculus, and Foundations of Analysis next semester.

    I have plenty of time and motivation to learn this stuff. I slacked off far too much in high school, so I've reduced my life to lifting and studying. Is there a better alternative to HRK? Will working through problems from the HRK improve my physical intuition and so on? Is that what I need? Proper route for studying calculus?

    Some of you gurus need to set me on the right track before it's too late, PLEASE!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2009 #2
    Eh, you only need to read one decent calculus book. Calculus is actually pretty boring. Spivak is good, but you won't succeed in higher math courses if you don't do the problems (don't do all of them either, I don't really see the point in doing the easier exercises, and there definitely are a good number that are easy). If you want a good list of problems to do in Spivak, you could try PMing me or checking out a syllabus. I found Apostol fairly dry, though his analysis text is quite good.

    HRK is a great text, since it will teach you how to solve problems. Frankly, if you don't work on the problems then you're probably not actually learning anything.
  4. Oct 26, 2009 #3
    Chill out you not off track. I'm a little confused about your question. Are you asking whether the textbooks your professors have chosen are good enough? Why are you so convinced you are on the wrong track?
  5. Oct 26, 2009 #4
    All right, I'll work with Spivak once I find/buy a copy. I'll try to work with HRK as well, though the problems always leave me feeling like a dunce. I'll get better at problem solving the more I solve problems, right? RIGHT?! I hope so!

    To Phyisab****: Yeah, pretty much. I just wanna know the tools I need to learn the material. I don't want to squander four years as I did in high school. These four years are much more expensive, after all!
  6. Oct 26, 2009 #5
    Your school library might be good place to find the text (you don't need the latest edition). In general the university library is an extremely helpful resource if you are stuck with an explanation in a certain textbook.

    You get better at solving problems by working on problems that are nontrivial for you yet not too challenging. It'll be hard at first if you're not used to solving not entirely routine problems. You should at least be able to judge which exercises you are sure you could do if you wrote it out, and then skip those.
  7. Oct 26, 2009 #6
    Do you mind telling me the good problems to work on?
  8. Oct 27, 2009 #7

    You get better at solving problems by working on problems that are nontrivial for you yet not too challenging.

    The ones that aren't easy, and aren't impossible.

    Just look through the questions and pick the ones that look tough, but you have an idea on how to start solving them.
  9. Oct 28, 2009 #8
    I'm working through the Spivak book, just work on the problems that are starred - it's a good book with good questions. For physics, I'm trying to go through Physics textbook by Resnick and Halliday (an old version) - but to no avail.. Physics is definitely more difficult than math to me :|
  10. Oct 28, 2009 #9
    Okay, thanks for the tips guys. A classmate and I have decided to dedicate the next four years of our lives to studying math and physics. We're starting with HRK and Spivak. We're going to compete! Seeya in four years.
  11. Oct 28, 2009 #10
    I just want to add that your first few college years are a great (your only?) opportunity to take some other classes in fields that you aren't planning on going into, but sound interesting.

    You're probably required to do this, but just in case you aren't, don't take -only- math and physics classes. Make sure you get a few anthropology, or history, or psych, or philosophy, or whatever your interests are in, classes in.

    You won't really have a chance to once you're a junior/senior, there'll be too many upper level courses to take. Even getting a taste of how other fields approach problems will really broaden your thinking (IMHO).
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