My College Physics book is horrible. Suggestions for supplements?

  • #1
QuantumCurt
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Hey everyone, I just started College Physics(algebra/trig based) a couple weeks ago, and I'm quickly realizing that my textbook is horrible. It barely even really explains any of the concepts, and the ways that equations are being derived are completely different from the way that my professor is deriving them. As little sense as this makes, the book is both oversimplified, and overly complicated at the same time. The explanations in the chapters barely even really explain the concepts of what it is that you're trying to do, and then the examples that they show seem to make the derivations incredibly overly complicated.

This is the book that we're using- https://www.amazon.com/dp/0840062060/?tag=pfamazon01-20&tag=pfamazon01-20
There isn't any homework in the class, just recommended problems out of the book for studying purposes. What makes it even worse, is that the assigned text was a hybrid addition that uses Webassign, and has NO practice problems in the book. I absolutely abhor web based homework systems, and given that my computer isn't in the vicinity of the area where I do my homework/studying, it is a bit of an inconvenience. A lot of reviews online express similar opinions about this book. Several people that have previously taken this class at my school have told me that the book was nearly worthless in the class, and they all still passed it. I need something with some better explanations of how to solve problems that are more advanced than the very most basic examples of a given type of problem.

So, I'm looking for some kind of supplement, whether it be in the form of a book, or something online. Preferably something that explains the solving of the physics problems from a more intuitive perspective. Something with a decent number of practice problems would be ideal. Does anyone have any recommendations?
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
I could be wrong, but that book looks good to me.
I looked at some pages and I seemed pretty clear to me. But I think this isn't the response you wanted to hear..
 
  • #3
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6
You can probably find some decent introductory textbooks in the "Textbooks discussion" section of the forums.
 
  • #4
QuantumCurt
Education Advisor
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I could be wrong, but that book looks good to me.
I looked at some pages and I seemed pretty clear to me. But I think this isn't the response you wanted to hear..
I think one of the things that is really getting me is the differences in notation between the textbook, and my professors derivations. I have a hybrid edition of the book too that does not have ANY example problems in the back, which is very irritating.

This book started out being pretty good, but once it got past the most basic stuff, the explanations seemed to get kind of lacking. It doesn't give examples of many types of problems. Yes, physics is about understanding how to use the concepts, but showing a few more examples of different types of problems still seems like it would have plenty of merit, especially in an intro class.

You can probably find some decent introductory textbooks in the "Textbooks discussion" section of the forums.
I've looked around in there, and the only physics books I could find were for calculus based physics.
 
  • #6
372
12
Hey everyone, I just started College Physics(algebra/trig based) a couple weeks ago, and I'm quickly realizing that my textbook is horrible. It barely even really explains any of the concepts, and the ways that equations are being derived are completely different from the way that my professor is deriving them. As little sense as this makes, the book is both oversimplified, and overly complicated at the same time. The explanations in the chapters barely even really explain the concepts of what it is that you're trying to do, and then the examples that they show seem to make the derivations incredibly overly complicated.

This is the book that we're using- https://www.amazon.com/dp/0840062060/?tag=pfamazon01-20&tag=pfamazon01-20
There isn't any homework in the class, just recommended problems out of the book for studying purposes. What makes it even worse, is that the assigned text was a hybrid addition that uses Webassign, and has NO practice problems in the book. I absolutely abhor web based homework systems, and given that my computer isn't in the vicinity of the area where I do my homework/studying, it is a bit of an inconvenience. A lot of reviews online express similar opinions about this book. Several people that have previously taken this class at my school have told me that the book was nearly worthless in the class, and they all still passed it. I need something with some better explanations of how to solve problems that are more advanced than the very most basic examples of a given type of problem.

So, I'm looking for some kind of supplement, whether it be in the form of a book, or something online. Preferably something that explains the solving of the physics problems from a more intuitive perspective. Something with a decent number of practice problems would be ideal. Does anyone have any recommendations?
Had the exact same problem, I bought

Physics for scientists and engineers, Giancoli.

It worked pretty perfectly, just find any BIG *** physics university book that covers it from classical mechanics too high particle physics, Ive checked many and they are 90% the same when you go through them.
 
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  • #7
QuantumCurt
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I'm actually done with the book in question now. I'm starting the University Physics sequence next semester, and we're using Tipler's "Physics for Science and Engineering," which I've heard mixed reviews about. I used the Giancolli book for reference for my honors project this last semester though. I was using Newton's 2nd Law for variable mass systems to model the ascent velocities and thrust characteristics of the Saturn V rocket. It was very useful.

I also just ordered Kleppner and Kolenkow's "An Introduction to Mechanics" to use as a supplement for the classical mechanics portion of the University Physics sequence.
 
  • #9
QuantumCurt
Education Advisor
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I've always heard that the Freedman book is one of the better University Physics texts. The Tipler book is the required text for my class though, and I feel like it would be pretty pointless to get a second University Physics text for the class. They all cover the same material. There are obviously some small differences, but it doesn't seem like they would be significant enough to merit the extra money.

I got a copy of K&K's Intro to Mechanics to supplement the first semester. I plan on getting some other supplementary texts for the following semesters as well.
 
  • #10
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The best intro physics texts I have come across are Resnick Halliday Krane (Not Walker) and University Physics .These two are more than sufficient .Even then if you wish to go through any other text like Giancoli,Serway or Tipler ,you can have them in e-book format .They are available in pdf or djvu format on the internet.

Apart from them ,Kleppner is an excellent Mechanics book.
 
  • #11
Student100
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The best intro physics texts I have come across are Resnick Halliday Krane (Not Walker) and University Physics .These two are more than sufficient .Even then if you wish to go through any other text like Giancoli,Serway or Tipler ,you can have them in e-book format .They are available in pdf or djvu format on the internet.

Apart from them ,Kleppner is an excellent Mechanics book.
University physics is definitely a good choice to those who like a bit more wordy explanation (which I do), and it was a pleasure to go through. That's why I recommended it since QC felt his text was shying away from really explaining/conversing the concepts in detail.
 
  • #12
bcrowell
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The recommendations in this thread are giving a lot of apples-to-oranges comparison. The "college physics" title of Serway is publishers' code for physics using algebra and trig, i.e., the type of course taken by many students in the life sciences. Books like Giancoli and Halliday use calculus and are aimed at engineers. Kleppner is indeed a fine book, but it's for yet a third audience -- honors physics majors at places like MIT and Berkeley.

I once had to teach out of Serway, and it was indeed the crappiest textbook I'd ever seen. However, my reasons for hating it were pretty much orthogonal to QuantumCurt's complaints. I felt that it was a total plug-and-chug book that simply introduced equations without explaining where they came from. The best commercial "college physics" textbook I know of is Touger, but I wouldn't give it more than a lukewarm recommendation, especially because of the exploitative price. There are quite a few noncommercial alternatives out there, including my own book, which you can find by googling on my name, and others that you can find here: http://www.theassayer.org/cgi-bin/asbrowsesubject.cgi?class=Q#freeclassQC
 
  • #13
QuantumCurt
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Well, I'm actually done with the course in question now, so the suggestions have kind of moved on to the next level.

I ended up smoking the course. I finished with around a 97%, including getting 100% on an honors project that was roughly 20% of the grade. After my initial frustrations with this book, I rarely opened it up again. As you mentioned, I felt like a great deal of this book was focused almost entirely on plug 'n chug type problem solving. There wasn't much in the way of rigorous development and background. My professor covered a lot of development and derivations though, and I found it much more beneficial to simply review my notes and rework problems that we did in class. I read through the chapters out of the book, but I didn't spend much time studying the examples or working exercises out of the book.

I actually just ordered the Kleppner book yesterday, along with the Tipler book that's required for the class. I'm thinking the two should make for a good combination. I'm planning on using Kleppner as a supplement, and also to use over summer to get a deeper development of some of the concepts in my spare time.
 
  • #14
vanhees71
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I don't understand, why you say you "had to teach out of a certain textbook" you don't like. Can you be forced to use a textbook you consider wrong and then to teach the way the subject is presented in it? Who enforces this on you?

I'm in the fortunate situation that I have to teach only special lectures on a subject I choose myself. Then I give recommendations for textbook I used myself to prepare my lecture, but I'm not bound to any given text. Also for the usual course lectures any professor is free to choose any textbook he likes or to prepare his own lecture.
 

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