Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

My rant

  1. Jul 13, 2012 #1
    I started college late, but I still behave like a child before my first day of classes, meaning I have trouble sleeping the night before because I am too excited about learning, especially maths/science. When I do well in my classes, I feel even more encouraged to study harder and learn more, and I feel very happy every day.

    But lately, the material as I rise through the more advanced classes, is becoming more and more difficult (as I expected it) and I am feeling angrier and frustrated every day when I put in 10-14 hours daily for studies, and I barely pass with a 'C' mark. Some people say I that might be studying too much or I am burning out, but I don't feel that way, plus I don't have any interest in anything else besides what I study. As noted, I enjoy my studies and schoolwork very much almost to the point of it being "playtime" and my entire social life consists of discussing maths/science.

    I've considered changing my major, but if I do that, I won't be able to return to school for several years because it will take a few years of working at McDonald's before I can pay for another semester of school, and I don't know if I can handle flipping burgers 10 hours a day for the next few years to make ends meet without being able to study anything all day. I'd probably burn out from that, not from studying too much.

    Anyway, I am doing my best to not be discouraged even though I still don't understand some material from school I've learned long ago, not matter how long I study it. I guess I will have to learn to deal that I just cannot learn some things no matter how much time and effort I put into it...the tricky part will be to identify these topics before I spend two weeks studying the same topic and falling behind two weeks of schoolwork/topics because I still don't understand that one topic.

    Edit: I see this was moved from the 'General Discussions' forums...just to be clear, I am not seeking academic advice per se, but just wanted to complain in general about my life.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 13, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    hi daigo! :smile:

    i don't understand this bit …
    why are you continuing on a course when you know you didn't understand parts of an earlier course?

    ok, you don't need expertise in everything in your course … you can pass the exams with partial expertise … but you do need at least to understand everything in your course before you move on to the next stage

    it looks as if you should either change your course (which probably means going back a year), or take a year out, flipping burgers by day and re-working that old material by night :redface:
  4. Jul 13, 2012 #3
    Hi tiny-tim. Before I began college, I had already set aside a few years to study/brush up on my own personal remedial courses. After those years of studying, there are still some things in Algebra I do not understand. I don't think I should hold myself back even longer for just those small things. During testing, I score pretty much perfectly - but I think it's because the education standards might be slightly less at community college, therefore sometimes it might be easier. But it really starts to show in the more advanced classes. I don't have the money to retake courses - it'll take many more years than just one to save up for a semester's worth of classes.
  5. Jul 13, 2012 #4
    Hey Diago,

    I understand the frustration that comes along with academic work (as many of us do). But I think you're leaving out some need-to-know information, such as: (i) What field of study are you pursuing?, (ii) How do you study, or "brush up", for your classes?, and (iii) Do you think there are any other resources for study, besides time and money, that would enhance your learning experience?

    Sometimes your success is not based on the amount of time you put into studying, but rather how you are studying. A lot of people here have been, or currently are, in your shoes. Maybe we can share what we've learned if you can describe your situation in more detail.
  6. Jul 13, 2012 #5
    If you spend 10-14 hours studying and only manage to get a C, then there's something wrong. I think your methods of studying are not good. Could you tell us what you usually do when you study?? Do you have a plan??

    Or perhaps you really hate your major, that could be a factor as well. But still...
  7. Jul 13, 2012 #6
    Hi E_M_C, (i) Physics, (ii) for preparation, I study the topics in the syllabus beforehand so I know what the class will be about. Afterwards, if I don't have another class soon, I will study it again. (iii) Yes, someone who can explain the concepts to me in a manner that I can easily understand the content. So far the professor and textbooks just seem to complicate everything.

    Usually in technical classes, I can work many of the problems mechanically through means of rote by recognizing familiar types of problems. I can identify them, and plug in the numbers accordingly, and crunch out the result. This is a problem because I cannot perform "word" problems at all whatsoever, because they are not presented in a 'standard' format like regular problems.

    For example, I can take the derivative of every single problem given in my textbook with relative ease, but if you give me a related rate problem, I won't know where to start or how to set up the problem. I know that the derivative is the slope at a point on a curve, but for example: if a car is stuck and needs to be pulled in 'x' meters to get unstuck, and is being pulled in by a rope on a pulley that's 5m above the ground at 2m/s, how fast is the rope being pulled when the car is 12m from being unstuck? I don't see how this has anything to do with a function and taking the slope of a point on that function. I can't even imagine what the calculation is supposed to look like, because I don't truly understand what a derivative means.

    Mostly I will just sit and read the textbook chapters, several times, then attempt to do all the problems, without mechanical means. I will try to understand what the question is asking, and solve it through logical sense, which usually does not work out because I don't understand what the question really means.
  8. Jul 13, 2012 #7


    Staff: Mentor

    It seems the problems that are giving you the most difficulty are the ones you would encounter in real life. You need to learn how to diagram them and then to write don the relevant equations of state like the forces acting on the objects or the energy of the system... These problems are necessarily difficult because it is how you actually apply the physics to understand the system.

    In some way, this is the dilemma of students in introductory physics where they fret over memorizing the formulas and when to use them and then when faced with a more difficult problem realize they must now think of how to derive that magic formula to get the answer.

    My only suggestion is talk to a prof and see if they can help you overcome this issue and of course do a lot of these problems over and over. I remember there was a physics review book that had thousands of problems with solutions that might help.

    Another problem, is that you might be looking too deeply into a problem and thus complicating it too much to be able to solve it.

    Lastly, keep telling yourself I can solve this and then do it. Forget about grade pressure and any other pressures acting on your academic life just enjoy learning and relax a bit.
  9. Jul 14, 2012 #8
    Sounds to me like you're taking Calculus I, and you're having trouble with some of the related-rate problems (don't sweat it, those used to give me trouble too). It also sounds like you may not have taken more than one or two introductory physics courses.

    You should be made aware, most of the textbook problems encountered by physics students are word problems. Having the ability to extract the necessary information from those problems, and understand which concepts to apply that information to, is a critical skill. The more problems you work, the better that skill becomes.

    My advice is to focus on a particular subject that's giving you difficulty- for example, related-rates. Work all of the step-by-step examples in your textbook, then work all of the textbook problems that have solutions in the back of the book, then try your hand at all of the other problems in the book. Practice really does make perfect, and I can't stress that enough.

    Another skill that you will find helpful, if not absolutely critical, is resourcefulness- i.e. obtaining supplement materials (textbooks, lecture notes, etc.) that relate to your studies. For example, checking out other Calculus textbooks from the school or local library (or elsewhere). You may be having trouble with a problem in Textbook A and refer to Textbook B, and find that the problem in Textbook A is in fact a step-by-step example in Textbook B. Additionally, you can find a multitude of examples on the internet. Many professors keep their lecture notes and homework examples online and available to the public (use google).

    Lastly, whenever you're on a break, use that time to study ahead. That way you'll have more time for the concepts to sink in, and when it's presented in class, you'll already know what the professor's talking about. If at all possible, try to obtain the syllabus and required textbook ahead of time, and work the textbook problems on your break. Sometimes you may have to email the professor and ask what text he/she plans to use, and what chapters are the most likely to be covered.

    I hope the above is of some use to you. I truly admire your desire to learn and your determination to put yourself through school. Keep it up!
  10. Jul 14, 2012 #9
    Your problem is that you still behave like a child. You need dicipline and the ability to adapt when faced with a challenge. I know this is may seem a little offensive but maybe you arent emotionally ready for college. You cant get angry when you cant solve a problem- it doesnt do anything for you. Dont quit your major just because its difficult, if you're going to take that attitude you might as well quit everything you try. Lastly, change your studying strategy. If you are putting in 10-14 hrs and still getting a C you are wasting time working very ineffectively. Accept that whatever strategy you are doing is not working aand acquire a new one.
  11. Jul 14, 2012 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    this worries me …

    i] since the professor and the books probably do it differently, you're both learning and unlearning when you should be just listening to the professor
    ii] your limited time would be better spent on studying topics after the lectures on them, rather than before​

    anyway, your method clearly isn't working for you :redface:, so stop it!
    again, you say the textbooks aren't helping, so stop using them (you don't have that option with the professor!)

    use buddy-help, or use this forum, or just spend the time saved on more problem-solving or (seriously) explaining it to yourself
    hmm … a derivative is a rate

    "slope" is just a property of a graph, if you can't visualise the graph, then the slope is no help at all … forget the slope

    maybe this is all a translation problem? you're trying to translate that problem into a graph, instead of directly into equations

    physics is equations, not graphs

    i suggest you start a new homework thread on that exact problem, showing how you solve it at present, and we can all join in and suggest new strategies

    (and other problems too, of course)

    hmm … i notice that you were active on pf for a few weeks earlier this year, and then you stopped visiting … did you not find pf helpful?​
  12. Jul 14, 2012 #11
    I'm inclined to agree with this, getting over the 'translation' stage is the first hurdle you've got to pass in maths. Then there's the calculus to analysis hurdle... but that's a story for another day :biggrin:

    Everyone gets frustrated when they can't solve a problem no mater how hard they feel they are trying..
    Other than being excited (which really isn't that childish anyway) I don't see how you'd think he's behaving like a child.
  13. Jul 14, 2012 #12
    Hi jedishrfu, Aero51, genericusrnme, and again E_M_C and tiny-tim. I technically can do all of the related rates problems that I recognize/have seen before, again through mechanical means. As another example in statistics, you may recognize: 1% of women age 40 who get tested for breast cancer have breast cancer, 80% of women who test positive have breast cancer, and 9.6% of women without breast cancer also test positive. What are the chances that a woman who tests positive has breast cancer?

    I can immediately recognize this as Bayes' Theorem and consequently plug in the numbers, or even draw the tree diagram to get the solution without using the actual formula itself. But that was because I was taught those methods. If I pretend I don't know Bayes' Theorem or how to derive it, I cannot 'logically' arrive at the correct answer by purely 'understanding' probability, because I don't truly know what it means to have an odd of some event happening, or how seeemingly separate events are actually related to each other mathematically.

    I feel very guilty if I get an 'A' in class simply because I recognize every type of problem through experience and can solve them through familiarity, not through understanding. My take on it is, if I pretend I have never seen the problem before and cannot solve it through 'logical' means (without the use of formula application except for the absolute basics that I understand the usage of), then I don't truly understand the content.

    Besides working all of the problems in the textbooks, I don't see any other alternative of "studying." The problem I am having is understanding the concepts intuitively, even though this isn't trying to understand the behavior of fundamental particles or black holes, which I think are pretty difficult to understand 'intuitively.'

    I think forums like these can be a good resource at helping one solve problems, but only when one already understands the material and has difficulties applying that knowledge to a tricky problem. I know I can solve the related rates problem I presented before by some method like forming a triangle, and taking the derivative of the Pythagorean theorem after plugging in the appropriately corresponding sides, which ends up being the distance multiplied by the velocity all divided by the hypotenuse, which ends up being 24/13 m/s. I have no idea why this works or why this is the correct solution. I just know I can do this based on the dozens of problems I have done before that are exactly like this. But if I had never seen this type of problem before, I would not know to create a triangle, etc.

    So by posting this problem and solution on the forums, I am basically asking members to re-teach me basic Calculus or derivatives in general in a manner I can understand it. Essentially, "tutor me full-time for free!" which I think is rude to ask for. I'm always looking at different resources and different methods of explanations for the same topic, but I have yet to find any "good" books that can really explain a concept well without trying to sound like a genius, or without presenting a concept in baby terms and expecting the reader to take their word without further explanation.
  14. Jul 14, 2012 #13
    ^ try making your own problems and solving them, making your own problems can sometimes be even more enlightening as solving others

    could you perhaps walk me through your thought process in trying to solve this problem;

    take a thin metal rod with a weight at one end and place it against the wall, assuming there is no friction involved and that the weight doesn't fall away from the wall, given an initial height h what is the velocity of the other end of the rod after a time t?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook