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Is this an effective way to learn physics/maths/chemistry?

  1. Mar 31, 2014 #1
    The classical physics textbook my professor has chosen has problems that don't match the text at all. I've discovered that the only way to learn now is to learn by reading the examples, then covering the steps up with a piece of paper to try to do it myself. Then check the answer. If it's wrong, i could see where i messed up and i could do it write. Then cover the solutions again, and do it again until i get the right answer.

    Is this an effective way to learn for math-based courses, if this is ALL i do? In other words, does the brain learn well like this? Or does it need to practice with other practice problems where it forces to solve new problems whose solutions you have never seen before?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 31, 2014 #2
    Different methods work well for different people, but it is my experience that you need to practice a wide variety of problems.

    Memorising the steps needed to solve a problem allows you to solve that problem and others like it with ease, but minor changes can throw you off balance and leave you unprepared.

    So, it is my advice (and I say this only as a student) that you are probably better off finding a classical physics text book that has a lot of problems that relate to your class material and solving as many as you can.
  4. Mar 31, 2014 #3
    Study closely each step and find what has done and why it has to be done to get the final answer. Sometimes you wseamlessly to go in the reverse direction from the final answer. Abyway you have to understand the answer properly.
    Then try to construct the full answer (more logically less memorizing)all by yourself without looking at the solution.
    Try this until you completly understand all the steps. If you don't understand a step refer to a text book or ask it here.
    If you understand the problem move on to more problems until they become quite easy for you. Apply logic + memory on and on.
    Read online materials which will motivate you through the studies. Make studies your lyfestyle. And good luck !
  5. Mar 31, 2014 #4


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    If you are going into law or psychology, I would think reading textbooks would dominate your college career.

    In science and engineering (physics, math, chemsitry), I find that 95% of what you do is working problems...with very little reading. Working lots of problems with help greatly with exams and so forth. Also, working the problems with make you a very good problem solver in the real work world.

    So to answer your question, yes working problems the way you describe is the way to go....you are on the right track!
  6. Mar 31, 2014 #5
    You might try jumping straight to the 2nd approach, at least some of the time (covering it up and solving it for yourself before reading the textbook solution). Use the textbook when you get stuck. But be aware that dealing with being stuck is one of the crucial parts of your education, so it's actually good to get stuck sometimes.

    Also, I think it's good to think about the concepts and not just solve problems, although you can think about the concepts simultaneously with doing the problems (or whenever). My method of learning is to be like the kid who is just asking, "Why, why, why, why?", until everyone else is sick of me.

    Why is this true? That's my big question.

    One caveat, though. People like Feynman get away with this attitude, but if you're not Feynman, sometimes, it can be a bit ambitious if you take it too far. I was good enough to get a PhD in math, but I think I took it a little too far, at least as far as success within the system is concerned because that's as far as I got. I'm a bit of a failure by mathematician's standards, partly because of getting too discouraged, partly because I'm not good at teaching, but partly because I took it a little too far with the whole asking why business (which was not necessarily a mistake in a perfect world, I think, but lead to me being too unfocused to do well within the system).
  7. Mar 31, 2014 #6
    Oh i think i wasn't clear. Sorry. I didn't mean to just merely memorize. I'll try to understand each step while reading the examples for the first time, before covering up the solutions to do it myself. I will use logic instead of just memorization to do it. Would this method be adequate if it's ALL i do?
    Last edited: Mar 31, 2014
  8. Apr 1, 2014 #7


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    It's not adequate. You must practice solving other questions whose solutions you have never seen before.
  9. Apr 1, 2014 #8
    I don't think so , but let me tell you a fact , all people on this sphere are unique , hence you're the only one can decide what is most effective way to learn something..
  10. Apr 1, 2014 #9
    thank you. Just the response i was looking for :)
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