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Math knowledge required to fully understand physics

  1. Mar 6, 2013 #1
    Hello everyone!!
    I am a high school student who is in grade 10. I've developed a passion in Math and Physics, and I intend to be an engineer in the future. However, I don't feel satisfied with the Physics knowledge I've picked up from school, so I seek the book Physics for Scientists and Engineers. Nonetheless, I find that in order to study that book, I must have a considerable amount of Maths such as Calculus, which at the moment I do not learn at school. And the Maths knowledge I've learned at school is not difficult at all.
    Therefore, I'd like to seek some advice on which Maths book I need to study in order to FULLY understand concepts of Physics. I realize that I need to brush upon Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry and to learn Calculus.
    I identify my level now as Pre-Intermediate.

    Thank you so much !!
    P/S: I'm an Asian student
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 6, 2013 #2
    to fully understand physics you need to know group theory, tensor calculus, complex analysis, partial differential equations and programming.

    did you mean to phrase your question a different way? maybe "knowing introductory physics adequately" would be a better way to put it.
  4. Mar 6, 2013 #3
    I mean to understand physics at precollegiate level
  5. Mar 6, 2013 #4


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    Homework Helper
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    Calculus would be the natural thing to study at this point.

    Have you heard about complex numbers? You could study that too. And maybe some probability theory.
  6. Mar 6, 2013 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    A book with a title like "Physics for Scientists and Engineers" is generally considered to be at first-year college or university level in the US. Maybe it's different in your country.
  7. Mar 6, 2013 #6


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    To be able to solve physics problems at that level, you need a solid understanding of algebra. As you further your education you'll need calculus and beyond, but for now I advise you to focus on algebra.
  8. Mar 6, 2013 #7

    But I do advise the OP to start calculus as soon as he's comfortable with algebra, trig and geometry. Physics is much nicer if you know calculus. And the faster you know calculus, the more options you will have.
  9. Mar 6, 2013 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    Things may be different in other countries, and even in other parts of the US, but many of my beginning college students (even not-so-beginning ones) have had trouble with things like "solve ##L = L_0 / \sqrt{1 - v^2/c^2}## for v". Give them something like "##5.00 = 2.00 / \sqrt{1 - 0.75v^2}## and they can do it, maybe with some effort. But I've had students ask me about the first one, "How do I do that? There aren't any numbers!" I have to explain that I want them to re-arrange the equation to get v all by itself on one side. They don't do that sort of thing a lot in algebra classes in at least some high schools, apparently. But we do it all the time in physics, even when we know the numbers!
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