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I want to learn Physics but I'm 31

  1. Oct 9, 2011 #1
    Okay, I'm not sure if I'm a weird case but here it goes. I've always been fascinated about how and why things work. I've always watched those TV programs that have some relation to physics. I know all these questions that I have about everything would be better answered if I had a better understanding on how and why things work. I never had the motivation to learn when I was younger but, now I do. As far as my math skills, sadly it is only to pre-Algebra at best. Though my math skills are low, I am very motivated in trying to learn as much as possible to accomplish this goal. I've also haven't went to school since I graduated high school. So my question is, how long would it take to learn and understand physics and what type of math should I start with?

    Note: I would work very hard at it. I have nothing but time on my hands and rather use it learing something than sitting here doing nothing. I'm also in the military so school is free for me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 9, 2011 #2
    This is a pretty relevant link for you.
    This outlines the general topics.

    Websites like ocw.mit.edu and khanacademy.com are great for pre-alg (khan academy) to calculus III (mit). Gerard 't Hooft has some great info in that first link as well.

    How long would it take? Perhaps someone else can answer that one.

    Edit: I just read that you meant at a university, great. In that case it depends on your MOS in the military as to whether you have the time to really take the courses. You can easily get started with all the humanities and algebra courses you might need to take, as well as any other general requirements. I basically did what you are trying to do, and though, I am out of the military now, I could have easily handled a military schedule and my first 1.5 years of college. It didn't really start taking vast amounts of time (I spend something like 80 hours a week studying) to get A's until I hit calc II/physics.
  4. Oct 9, 2011 #3
    Google "math placement tests" to get an idea of where you need to start. If it's early algebra, start there. I would say about $20 spent correctly on amazon can get you more than started. Buy an appropriate math book and maybe an introductory algebra based physics book and dive right in. If you plan on self studying then I would utilize online resources like crazy. Sites like MIT's Opencourse has a bunch of videos that you can watch. Any topic that you need help in just google it, there's a wealth of information out there.
  5. Oct 9, 2011 #4
    If you are just at the pre-Algebra level, you need to start with Algebra I, take Algebra II, then you should take a pre-calculus course (generally encompasses trigonometry, advanced algebra, etc...) and after that you could test into Calculus or do a self-study course with it.

    I would also use MathTutor DVD as a supplement to mastering Algebra I & II and precalculus. These DVD's would cost $75 or a bit more. From then on, you could just use freeware to learn physics and calculus.


    The tutor, Jason, gets to the point of it all when it comes to calculating your way through the material which is why I felt it was best to use his DVDs as a supplement to my math courses.

    Math is pretty much essential to learn classical physics (need to know calculus), or if you don't feel like learning calculus, there are text books teaching physics from an algebraic standpoint. However, if you really want to learn physics, go the classical route.

    As for your age, better to learn when you're 31 rather than thinking you can't learn it anymore or it is weird. It isn't, not many people understand basic college physics today anyway so go for it.
  6. Oct 9, 2011 #5
    I'll second the suggestion about Math Tutor DVDs. I've found them to be pretty good. As a supplement to them you'll need some (a lot of) exercises. Those can be found in some of the places already mentioned. It's not enough to just understand the concepts, but you'll actually have to be able to use them to solve problems on your own.

    I'm turning 32 next month and I've just gone back to college. I'm attending a local community college. I took a placement test when I enrolled so that I could be put in the correct math class when I enrolled. (That's another good way to find out where you stand.) I'm saying this to tell you, it's not too late. If you're willing to put in the work, you ought to be able to do really well.

    I've found my age to actually be an advantage. I see my classmates struggling with issues that plague young adults the world over. Lucky for me, I already went through that. I also find it easier to ask quations in class, complete assignments on time, do exta practice problems, etc. When I went to college the first time, I almost never did that stuff.

    Think of all the ways that the rich experiences that have changed you over the years can be an asset!
  7. Oct 10, 2011 #6
    You would need to learn some algebra before anything else, as even GCSE physics includes algebra.
  8. Oct 10, 2011 #7
    You need algebra and calculus before anything but make sure you understand high school mathematics .
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