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Is calc based physics while taking calc crazy?

  1. Aug 12, 2015 #1
    Does everyone (that needs an A) always take calc I and II (and maybe III) before taking physics I and II? Is it really that difficult to do well in physics while taking calc at same time?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    They are both intense subjects with Physics being based on Calculus. If you had a headstart on Calculus I (i.e. understood Differential Calculus and could differentiate and evaluate functions) when you start Physics you should be okay but I'd wait for others here to respond with their experiences.
  4. Aug 12, 2015 #3


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    Physics 1 requires you know Calculus 1. Co-requisite is Calculus 2.
    Physics 2 requires you know Calculus 2. Co-requisite is Calculus 3.

    Those conditions stated, learning the mathematics well and sooner than you need it for the Physics is much, much, much preferable. Physics 2 (Electricity & Magnetism) uses some Calculus 3 topics, and this is why learning Calculus 3 (multivariable) should be done before Physics 2 if possible.
  5. Aug 15, 2015 #4
    The way my school did it was teach Physics 1 with differential calculus, and Physics 2 with integral calculus. It worked fine for me, but would have been easier had I understood calculus prior to taking the physics courses.
  6. Aug 15, 2015 #5
    My introductory Physics classes were so hard because my professor taught like we were done with multi-variable Calc while we were mostly in Calc. II.

    I saw my first partial derivative, line integral, gradient and triple integral in Physics I. We all agreed we learned more math in Physics than in math. Calc III When we got to it was SO boring. The math professor couldn't believe how good we were on his tests. The two midterms all of us who had the same physics professor averaged mid 90's.

    Most professors I've seen though understand were the students are though and so they tone down the derivations and homework problems.
  7. Aug 16, 2015 #6
    Personally, I always learn math much better when I can see what it's supposed to be doing in physics (I struggle with physics much less than math). At least in introductory physics classes, while they are calculus based, in my experience they haven't been very rigorous with the calculus - by that I mean the physics professors are trying to see if you can do physics, not calculus. You may have to do an integral or a derivative, but the difficulty in the problem is understanding how to set up the integral, or why you need the derivative - not the computation itself.
  8. Aug 16, 2015 #7


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    Not all universities do this the same way. Some design their first semester physics so that it is taken at the same time as a first course in calculus, while others require a semester of calculus as a strict prerequisite. For your particular situation, your advisor is a key person to discuss this with, as she/he will know the way your particular school does this. Also note that "calc I", "calc II" etc doesn't necessarily mean the same thing at all schools either.

  9. Aug 16, 2015 #8
    It seems schools have different structures for their physics and math classes in the intro years. At my school, most students take calc 1 and physics 1 at the same time. But in your specific case, we may not be able to help you, talk to your physics professor.
  10. Aug 16, 2015 #9
    I've started physics and I'm taking calculus also. I notice that what I'm struggling with physics is making a math model for the word problem. Once I have the problem broken down into a math problem is really straight forward. It takes a lot longer then my math hw because of that difficulty. I often am asking 'what do they want me to do'
  11. Aug 16, 2015 #10


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    Unless you are taking an honors version you should be fine. I took AP physics in high school (my high school was very intense) and had taken BC calc the year before, but plenty of people took them concurrently.
  12. Aug 16, 2015 #11
    At my school calc I has to be taken with phys I and calc II has to be taken with phys II. Then calc III and IV are co-reqs, or pre-reqs, for other courses. So it isn't like you can't do it.
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