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Impossible to understand physics teacher!

  1. Aug 29, 2012 #1
    Okay so I started my first calculus based physics class, the first day I realize he has a very bad accent but I feel like I might be able to understand him. The second day we really start getting into vectors, magnitude, cross product, dot product, etc, i'm sure the supposedly really easy stuff, if I had a professor I could understand. I believe I have a pretty good hold on the beginnings now, but I really need to find a good alternative book that I can use to help me get through this course because I have a good feeling this will be a self-taught class. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Oh by the way I do have the study guide for my book and although it helps a little it isn't nearly enough.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 29, 2012 #2
    Do you sit in the front row? That sometimes helps.
  4. Aug 29, 2012 #3
    I found that spending 20 minutes reading about the material that will be covered in the next class makes it much easier to follow!
  5. Aug 29, 2012 #4
    My first year college physics teacher was from China. Durta Wee was "Delta V". You will eventually catch on. Be patient. However, make use of tutors and don't wait until you are lost. Consider finding or forming a study group, as it can help you throughout your college years. Stay on top of the material, and go for help any time you are uncertain. All will be good.
  6. Aug 29, 2012 #5
    Read the book yourself. Now is a good time to teach yourself how to learn independently.
  7. Aug 29, 2012 #6


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    My freshman calculus teacher was from BOSTON. I had to work out what "delters" and "omegers" were!
  8. Aug 29, 2012 #7


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    I once told my students that my main goal was to teach them to learn independently. They told me I was giving them a lot of practice at that!
  9. Aug 29, 2012 #8
    Just picture this.

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  10. Aug 29, 2012 #9

    I blame the way high school is structured. Everyone just expects to be spoon fed. Not many people develop the critical thinking needed to because they let other people do the thinking for them. How do we expect to let the future generations think for themselves if we do the thinking for them?

    I know it sounds like pretty words and all, but there is nothing better to improve your critical thinking than trying to teach yourself. It doesn't do much justice to just memorize and regurgitate the information that is passed to you.
  11. Aug 29, 2012 #10
    That's why I read the entire chapter and attempt the exercises before the lecture on the subject -- it seriously helps so much in aiding understanding.
  12. Aug 29, 2012 #11
    Good. And it might also help the OP understand the professor a bit clearer.

    One other thing that I want to add. It is sad that a percentage of students blame all of their inadequacies on the professors and refuse to independently learn the material after the class if they haven't understood something. You can usually see this on ratemyprofessors.com lol
  13. Aug 29, 2012 #12
    Yes, I sit in the front row of all my classes

    I have read, I mean dissected chapter one, I don't have a problem with self-teaching because i've had to do that with a few of my classes so far ex: csc 201, which was c++ programming.

    I guess I have a better grasp on than I though I had on chapter 1, because I got basically all the homework problems right.

    I think my problem is going to be that I like to know exactly WHY something is a certain way for example why acceleration always points towards the center in circular motion, I believe knowing the why of things helps me really understand what I'm doing, but when I ask why he either doesn't understand the question, or in the case of acceleration pointing towards the center, I was told I would just have to accept the concept. That is why I was asking if there were any other good books, outside of the book and study guide for the book that I have. Maybe good books anyone has ran across.

    Hahahaha I'm starting to key in on certain words he uses already, like teeta is "Theta" hahahaha.

    This I will definitely start doing. Thank you
  14. Aug 29, 2012 #13
    I'm afraid that IS just something you have to accept. It's exactly the same as how 'uniform gravity points downards' is just something we have to accept at that level.
  15. Aug 29, 2012 #14
    I realize that clarifying this particular point wasn't the reason for your post, but an easy way to understand this is like this: for uniform circular motion of a particular angular velocity, and radius [itex]R[/itex], imagine you just have a mass sitting on a slippery surface attached by a string of length [itex]R[/itex] to a post. Now give the mass a push perpendicular to the string giving it the appropriate angular velocity. The mass will just whip around in a circle as the string stays taught. The only force acting on the mass is the string tension (which must be directed towards the post in the centre since tension is always parallel to the thing that's tense) and Newton's second law says that acceleration is always parallel to the net force. Thus, acceleration must be towards the centre. We can do this with any uniform circular motion, so we conclude that this is a true in general. This is a dynamical explanation and relies on some of your physical intuition, but I'd say qualifies as a "why" explanation. You can also construct a purely kinematic proof (that is, no mention of forces) by fiddling around with vector geometry, as your professor may have done.

    As for your larger problem, hopefully you have an easier to understand (and somewhat motivated) TA for this class. I'll second what everyone said about using this an opportunity to improve your self-study skills. Fortunately, physics at the introductory level (and even more advanced levels) is pretty standard wherever you go, so you will likely be able to find explanations for things you're having trouble with online. For a supplementary text, you might find the first volume of the Feynman Lectures in Physics helpful. Khan Academy videos also have decent coverage for standard first year physics material, though perhaps at an overly simplified level.
  16. Aug 29, 2012 #15
    That stuff is only easy compared to the hard stuff. I'm going into the final year of my undergraduate and the easy stuff still surprises me sometimes.

    Make sure you also read about those subjects online. It's pretty easy to find material on that stuff and learning it from several different sources really helps retention.
  17. Aug 29, 2012 #16


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    For that example, your textbook should have some kind of explanation, at least a qualitative one using a vector diagram. Probably not in the first chapter, though.

    It would help if you tell us which book you're using, so people don't waste time recommending it. (Tip: it helps to mention the authors, e.g. "Halliday, Resnick & Walker" rather than only the titles which are usually pretty generic.)
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2012
  18. Aug 30, 2012 #17
    I agree completely, and understanding something makes it a whole lot easier to remember.
    I found in that situation you either have to figure it out yourself, accept it or find someone else who can answer it, the first is definitely the most rewarding of the three (Dopamine!).
    I came across a related question today: "Show that the acceleration of a particle always points toward the concave side of its path."
  19. Aug 30, 2012 #18
    The book we use is Sears & Zemansky's University Physics with Modern Physics, Young and Freedman
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