# It didn't make sense how physics was hard while math wasn't.

## Main Question or Discussion Point

Well, until now. In calculus, you're just deriving and integrating functions, evaluating expressions, simplifying functions, and executing them, etc. I don't think it takes that much brain power to do the same mundane operations when everything (minus the variable you wish to solve for) is clearly spelled out for you. In physics, you have to do a bit more thinking, I believe. Like, you're supposed to figure out on your own what all the variables are, and ask yourself questions on the values of those variables. "Is velocity decreasing or increasing?", "Is this value positive or negative?" It may just be me, though.

Related General Discussion News on Phys.org
Student100
Gold Member
Well, until now. In calculus, you're just deriving and integrating functions, evaluating expressions, simplifying functions, and executing them, etc. I don't think it takes that much brain power to do the same mundane operations when everything (minus the variable you wish to solve for) is clearly spelled out for you. In physics, you have to do a bit more thinking, I believe. Like, you're supposed to figure out on your own what all the variables are, and ask yourself questions on the values of those variables. "Is velocity decreasing or increasing?", "Is this value positive or negative?" It may just be me, though.
Is this a question, or a statement?

Yes, generally, science is where you begin to learn to model physical concepts with math. So, beyond the simple calculations you're experiencing in math courses, you're now actually setting up an equation/model that best fits the underlying concepts. This is hard for some students initially.

Don't get it wrong though, what you're doing in your calculus course doesn't mean math is easy or somehow limited to your calculation based courses. That's only the tip of the iceberg of what mathematics is about.

Yes, I've always thought that too. My head hurts more while doing physics. But I expect pure mathematics won't be too easy, the maths we use in physics is quite well developed and also we usually don't bother with the proofs and stuff of the maths.

Yes, I've always thought that too. My head hurts more while doing physics. But I expect pure mathematics won't be too easy, the maths we use in physics is quite well developed and also we usually don't bother with the proofs and stuff of the maths.
It's true that I didn't get far with my Maths or Physics studies, I'm writing about High school stuff now.
For me, Physics was always easier because each number had a meaning. If you calculated something, you understood what are you calculating. In maths, it was too abstract. You have no idea what you do and why. You just get a random equation which has no meaning and you are forced to calculate the result when you see no connection to real life.
In Physics, you can use logic and common sense to a greater degree. If you are not sure how to solve the equation (not sure if the sign should change or how to solve fractions), if you know what each number means, you can intuitively know if you should add or substract it from the final answer (if you understand the basic principle of the phenomenon studied). In Maths, common sense doesn't work for me.

It's true that I didn't get far with my Maths or Physics studies, I'm writing about High school stuff now.
For me, Physics was always easier because each number had a meaning. If you calculated something, you understood what are you calculating. In maths, it was too abstract. You have no idea what you do and why. You just get a random equation which has no meaning and you are forced to calculate the result when you see no connection to real life.
In Physics, you can use logic and common sense to a greater degree. If you are not sure how to solve the equation (not sure if the sign should change or how to solve fractions), if you know what each number means, you can intuitively know if you should add or substract it from the final answer (if you understand the basic principle of the phenomenon studied). In Maths, common sense doesn't work for me.
Yes,I guess it's the same for me too. I especially struggled with abstract algebra (I was so relieved when I passed that paper!). In physics you can mostly know if your answer is wrong by physical reasoning.

jim hardy
Gold Member
2019 Award
Dearly Missed
i'm with last two posts.
I too struggled with math. It was the only course i had to bring my homework home and spend hours every night. Physics i made A's and it seemed intuitive. Math i loved word problems, and our differential equations text was very much practical oriented, thats probably the only reason i passed.

That's only the tip of the iceberg of what mathematics is about.
I'm at Calculus II. Where's the rest of the iceberg, so to say?

jtbell
Mentor
Where's the rest of the iceberg
Look at the course listings for any university math department. Real analysis, abstract algebra (group theory), topology, differential geometry...

Well, I'm glad that my engineering degree don't require those classes. Just Calculus I-IV and Differential Equations. :D