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Multivariable calc required for intro physics?

  • Thread starter torquemada
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Hi, I was reading ratemyprofessor.com (i know - not a good thing, as most bad reviews are written by lazy students) and I came across something a bit strange. Somebody said that he wouldn't recommend taking the first semester of calculus-based physics unless you've taken calc 3 (multivariable) already. But my school only requires one semester (differentiation) as well as taking the 2nd semester (integration) during the same semester as you take the first calc physics course.

Assuming that person isn't just plain wrong, what could he be referring to or trying to mean? Will it simply be easier if you've done calc 3? Is there a layer of understanding that is better appreciated with calc 3 even though you can "get by" with just calc 1? Or is he indeed 'just plain wrong?'

Thx for any help you can provide :)
 

fss

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A standard introductory physics class won't require anything beyond Calc I.
 
While you can do fine in intro physics just taking calc 2 concurrently, having already taken calc 3 is helpful. Most intro physics courses will teach you what you need to know about vectors, but seeing them before in calc 3 makes it easier to focus on the physics rather than worrying about the math.
 
The three things I needed from calc 3 to do physics 1 were vectors, dot products, and cross products. My physics prof taught those things as they came up. Perhaps the professor being rated on that website didn't do a good job of teaching those concepts.
 
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Having just taken calculus based Introductory Physics (Newtonian Mechanics) this past semester, I find it a bit ridiculous anyone would even consider Calc 3 is a prerequisite you can't truly excel without. Unless you had bad high school preparation, you actually don't need anything other than high school Maths. Integrals, vectors, dot and cross products and trig identities probably aren't something you have never seen before, are they?
 

symbolipoint

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YES, This:
While you can do fine in intro physics just taking calc 2 concurrently, having already taken calc 3 is helpful. Most intro physics courses will teach you what you need to know about vectors, but seeing them before in calc 3 makes it easier to focus on the physics rather than worrying about the math.
In fact just having the Calc 3 prerequisite is not enough for some students. E & M fundamental physics course in the introductory series is way up tough with all the Trigonometry, vectors, analytic Geometry, and Calculus in three dimensions. Reviewing Cal. 2 and Calc. 3 can help so much. Prestudying E & M Physics can help so much. Otherwise, some students just do not have enough mathematical maturity and experience to easily manage.
 
Hi, I was reading ratemyprofessor.com (i know - not a good thing, as most bad reviews are written by lazy students) and I came across something a bit strange. Somebody said that he wouldn't recommend taking the first semester of calculus-based physics unless you've taken calc 3 (multivariable) already. But my school only requires one semester (differentiation) as well as taking the 2nd semester (integration) during the same semester as you take the first calc physics course.

Assuming that person isn't just plain wrong, what could he be referring to or trying to mean? Will it simply be easier if you've done calc 3? Is there a layer of understanding that is better appreciated with calc 3 even though you can "get by" with just calc 1? Or is he indeed 'just plain wrong?'

Thx for any help you can provide :)

Its helpful to be in calc 3(like I was), or have taken it already because you will have scalar and vector products covered already...and other vector/integration techniques. The kids in my first semester mechanics course who were in calc 1 concurrently struggled the most, and some in calc 2 did on some tough integration/differentiation scenarios. I wouldn't say its absolutely necessary, but it will just make your life a looooot easier if you dont' have to comprehend the physics AND the math.
 
Having just taken calculus based Introductory Physics (Newtonian Mechanics) this past semester, I find it a bit ridiculous anyone would even consider Calc 3 is a prerequisite you can't truly excel without. Unless you had bad high school preparation, you actually don't need anything other than high school Maths. Integrals, vectors, dot and cross products and trig identities probably aren't something you have never seen before, are they?
When I took physics 1, I had never seen nor heard of dot products or cross products. I had a basic idea of what vectors were, but had never really done math with them.
 
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I actually took a brief into MVC and it REALLLLLLLLLLLLY compliments Physics I and II.

Also, I use RateMyProf myself, you really can't go wrong with it lol
 
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When I took physics 1, I had never seen nor heard of dot products or cross products. I had a basic idea of what vectors were, but had never really done math with them.
Wow, really? I guess in that case it would be useful to have Calc 3 (I don't really know what Calc 3 entails, though :smile:), but I somehow assumed everyone learns these things in high school.
 
Wow, really? I guess in that case it would be useful to have Calc 3 (I don't really know what Calc 3 entails, though :smile:), but I somehow assumed everyone learns these things in high school.
It's been 11 years since I graduated high school, but I doubt math standards have actually INCREASED since then. I was in something of an accelerated math program at my high school, and I only made it up to the equivalent of what most colleges around here call calc 2. (Integration techniques, series and sequences, intro to DiffEq, polar coordinates.)
 
I think they cover vector maths earlier in the "foreign" countries. I still remember taking my Engineering Statics course in first year, not having any clue what a dot product was, struggling on my HW, then going to the TA and being totally dumbfounded that a scalar value was the result of the dot-product. Needless to say, I started using the Internet and my textbook more actively after that...

I don't know why such things aren't covered in HS, because they're everywhere in first year!
 
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It's been 11 years since I graduated high school, but I doubt math standards have actually INCREASED since then. I was in something of an accelerated math program at my high school, and I only made it up to the equivalent of what most colleges around here call calc 2. (Integration techniques, series and sequences, intro to DiffEq, polar coordinates.)
This is really interesting to hear then, because in Calculus I and Linear Algebra I I learned heaps and heaps of new stuff. Granted, I was familiar with some stuff from high school, but it was taken to a level different from what I was used to, especially the proof over proof over proof thing. But despite encountering things unfamiliar to me, I can't say I would've done any worse in (calculus-based) Newtonian Mechanics had I not taken those two courses in concurrently.
I don't know why such things aren't covered in HS, because they're everywhere in first year!
It's also funny to hear that, since I don't have the feeling that the Canadian students were prepared worse than I was when graduating out of high school. If anything, some even seem to know more stuff pertaining to Maths. It is a small Honours course, so that may explain it, but if you don't learn that in high school, where did they acquire this knowledge? Self-study?
 
It is a small Honours course, so that may explain it, but if you don't learn that in high school, where did they acquire this knowledge? Self-study?
Well, maybe they cover this "stuff" in the AP/IB courses, but us "normies" had never seen it before.

Anyone that self-studies dot-products in HS needs to get laid, imo.
 
I took physics I concurrently with Calculus II and currently doing Physics II with Calculus III and ODE.

I never had much of a problem myself. Dot and Cross products were not exactly complicated and I knew what vectors were (somewhat) from High School.

Currently I'm sick and tired of these vectors. On Tue/Thurs I have Statics, Physics II, and Calc III. So all day long I'm doing vectors. I hear the word at least 100 times a day.
 

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