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Courses Math needed to start taking physics courses?

  1. Feb 20, 2012 #1
    You've heard the story probably a thousand times: "Slacker kid, extremely bright, does absolutely nothing through high school, not even a single homework assignment - stumbles into a deep love for Physics and wants to start taking Physics courses at the local community college for a couple years get exceptional grades and transfer to a University to complete a b.s and maybe more."

    For a knowledge assessment I got a 26 on the ACT, which amazes me, I really wonder what I could have been capable of if I applied myself in HS - but that's not here nor there; but I do have some knowledge of Algebra, and Geometry, if any of what I know is of any use I have no idea though(and obviously I have very little knowledge of Calculus, which I know will be needed at some point).

    My question though, can someone give me a list of things I will need to know and what's of the most importance right now? And can you list some reading material/textbooks/lectures that I can start studying now to try to at least get up to speed or even ahead of the game.

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 20, 2012 #2
    I'd recommend starting to learn calculus if you're comfortable with your precalc skills.
  4. Feb 20, 2012 #3
    Mathematical Methods in the Physical Sciences by M Baos (or Boas I can never remember which)

    That book'll get you started on some basic techniques
    Whilst you're doing that, follow MIT's youtube lectures on 'Introduction to Linear Algebra' by G Strang

    Once you've done that try out goldstein's classical mechanics or landau and lifgarbagez' mechanics book
    If those are too hard, try introduction to mechanics by daniel kleppner (or something like that)

    You'll know where you need to go from there

    Also, if you want some kind of idea of what physics is like at a higher level than applying newtons second law to system, check out leonard susskinds lectures on physics on youtube

    Good luck!
  5. Feb 20, 2012 #4
    Just how much algebra and geometry do you know? If you're not comfortable with it, don't be afraid to start lower at a community college and work your way up. It may take a little longer, but a good foundation is important to success. That's the way I see it, anyway.

    Oh, and a first year physics course for science majors generally needs you to be able to do calculus. Some require it before you enroll, others let you enroll in both concurrently.
  6. Feb 20, 2012 #5
    Thanks everyone for their replies.

    And moouers, I really don't know, I mean I took those classes in high school, and I'm not really sure how much I retained. I am starting at a CC though, I just was wondering where I should start now before I start taking classes.
  7. Feb 21, 2012 #6

    Does your community college have placement testing for mathematics?

    From my experience at my community college...if you can remember how to factor quadratics and what-not and do it well, you can skip intermediate algebra and go straight to college algebra. If you are comfortable with functions and inverse functions, exponentials and logarithms, you can probably skip college algebra and go straight to trig. If you're totally fine with the trig functions, identities, and how to derive them, skip trig and go to pre-calc.

    If your college has a series of placement tests, take them.
  8. Feb 21, 2012 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    Boas is upper-level undergraduate material. It's not for someone who has "very little knowledge of calculus".

    Serious introductory physics courses (in the US) generally have Calculus I (basic derivatives and integrals) as a pre-requisite or co-requisite. The OP should aim for that level to start with.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2012
  9. Feb 21, 2012 #8
    You sure?
    That's the book I started with that got me into maths :confused:

    Oh wait, I just read OPs post, when I read it last night I read 'I have very little knowledge of ' as 'I have a little knowledge of '.

    In that case, try khanacademy, russnmikayla, untill you have an idea of what you're doing in calculus and algebra. Once you've done that you should be good to get started on Mathematical Methods, it's pretty self contained and you should be able to get stared on it once you know how to do basic calc and algebra
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