Is there much difference between algebra- and calculus-based physics

In summary: Most resources that teach calculus-based physics also teach algebra-based physics. However, some resources teach one method more thoroughly than the other.
  • #1
I’m in an honors calc-based physics 1 course at my college and I can’t audibly understand my professor. I tried looking for tutorials online, but I have no idea if what I’m looking at is calc-based physics or alg-based physics, and I don’t want to learn the wrong methods. Is there a difference in how problems are solved between the two? I don’t know what resources are teaching the same method to solve problems as my class does, as most resources online don’t explicity state whether they’re calculus or algebra based.
 
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  • #2
At the schools where I’ve studied and taught (in the US), calculus in first semester intro physics courses is used mainly for conceptual purposes and to simplify derivations. Most homework and test problems are similar to those in algebra/trig based courses.
 
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  • #3
astroman707 said:
I’m in an honors calc-based physics 1 course at my college and I can’t audibly understand my professor. I tried looking for tutorials online, but I have no idea if what I’m looking at is calc-based physics or alg-based physics, and I don’t want to learn the wrong methods. Is there a difference in how problems are solved between the two? I don’t know what resources are teaching the same method to solve problems as my class does, as most resources online don’t explicity state whether they’re calculus or algebra based.
The fundamental concepts will be the same in both courses. At a basic level, algebraic physics will most likely express some formulae (e.g. velocity) as:
[tex] v = \frac{\Delta s}{\Delta t} [/tex]
where a calculus-based physics course would write that as:
[tex] v = \frac{ds}{dt} [/tex]

As you can see the fundamental concepts will be the same in both classes, however one will deal with the concepts in greater mathematical rigour (you can probably spot the difference that way). I also assume that you would be using integrals in calc based course (not sure how far into calculus you go).

To answer your question, I would say that it depends on the problem. For example, in projectile motion for algebraic physics, you will probably assume constant acceleration; on the other hand, calculus physics will introduce you to drag forces which require integration to solve (please note, I can only speculate).

Hope that helps.
 
  • #4
You are in a calculus-based physics course now. You must have observed that some problems are treated with just algebra and trig and some with calculus. Of the calculus-treated problems, some could have also been treated with just algebra, although in a more circuitous manner. It takes some expertise and experience to decide whether an example based solely on algebra could have been done more easily with calculus. So for your purposes, I would say that if you see derivatives and integrals in a solution or derivation, you may assume that it is calculus based, else that it is both calculus and algebra based.
 
  • #5
In my experience, there is little difference between the two types of intro classes.
 

1. What is the main difference between algebra-based and calculus-based physics?

The main difference between algebra-based and calculus-based physics is the level of mathematical rigor and complexity. Algebra-based physics primarily uses basic algebraic equations to solve problems, while calculus-based physics utilizes differential and integral calculus to analyze more advanced concepts.

2. Which type of physics is more commonly taught in high school?

Algebra-based physics is more commonly taught in high school due to its simpler mathematical approach. It serves as a good introduction to basic physics concepts before students move on to more advanced calculus-based physics in college.

3. Is one type of physics considered more difficult than the other?

The difficulty of algebra-based versus calculus-based physics depends on the individual student's strengths and weaknesses in math. Some students may find algebra-based physics easier due to its simpler math, while others may excel in calculus-based physics due to their strong grasp of calculus concepts.

4. Can you switch between algebra-based and calculus-based physics courses?

It is possible to switch between algebra-based and calculus-based physics courses, but it is not recommended without a strong understanding of the underlying mathematical concepts. It is important to consult with a teacher or advisor before making the switch to ensure a smooth transition.

5. Which type of physics is more applicable in real-world situations?

Both algebra-based and calculus-based physics have real-world applications. Algebra-based physics is more commonly used in everyday situations, such as understanding the motion of objects and the basics of electricity and magnetism. Calculus-based physics is often used in more complex and specialized fields, such as engineering and theoretical physics.

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