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Need Help Learning Material

  1. Feb 4, 2005 #1
    I am in an accelerated physics class so the professor assigns very difficult problems and also has very difficult tests. I assumed when I enrolled that because I had had some high school physics and am generally quick with the sciences that I'd do fine. However, the professor is not exactly communicating with me effectively how to solve problems. In any event does anyone know of an on-line resource that I can use for self-study. I have a test coming up and am not really able to understand a great deal of vector problems he assigns and really just anything.This is a sample of what I will be expected to be able to do.

    Any help would be GREATLY appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 4, 2005 #2


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    Your text is likely better than any online resource.

    Do you have Resnick & Halliday ?
  4. Feb 4, 2005 #3
    Yes I do I have started to read it but I was just hoping perhaps there was some sort of amazing online resource. I considered buying a second book by Feynmann but kind of backed out after realizing I hadn't exhausted my own book. Is it me or do some of those problems seem very challenging for a freshman year introductory physics course?
  5. Feb 5, 2005 #4

    Halliday/Resnick is one of (if not THE) most widely used introductory physics texts. Since I've taught that class from that text before, here are a few thoughts:

    1) Do all the problems you can, not just the assigned ones. Get the student solutions manual to check your problem solving strategies against.

    2) Buy a collection of solved physics problem (Schaum's "3000 Solved Problems in Physics" is at the right level and pretty cheap). Keep doing problems until you feel confident. Repetition is the key - from teaching experience, this is how the vast majority of students learn best.

    3) Does your physics department offer a weekly tutoring session? Usually this is a grad student who earns part of his stipend by sitting around 1-2 nights a week to answer question at all levels of undergraduate physics. It's free and he/she might have a different approach to the material that makes sense to you.

    4) How are your math skills? I'll assume that you are on the calc (vice algebra) based intro physics track. Are you at least taking calc II concurrently? My best students usually were. Even if you can pass the mechanics/thermo half of intro physics with less math, you'll want to be taking/have taken calc III when the E&M half rolls around.

    5) Is your class load too heavy? Though the concepts seem basic, this class and its sequel will probably be some of the most time-intensive of your college career. Many universities intentionally use the first year of physics with Halliday Resnick as a "weed-out" class for physics and engineering majors. It's not so much material that gets you; it's the pace. This class is usually about a third of your semester workload.

    Now, I don't know you and would never presume to judge you, so these next words are based on what I saw among my students. Pls disregard if they don't apply to you. In college, almost every physics (and most engineering) majors were one of the smartest kids in their respective high schools. More than half were not use to doing ANY regular homework, had no idea how to study, and almost never prepared for lectures (read the chapter BEFORE lecture - it really does help!). Some did not like to draw pictures/diagrams to help them set up the problem. One student remarked that he had always been able to do things in his head and felt like free-body force diagrams were "babyish." In short, they got by on natural ability. Very few are able to continue that in college. Assuming your university does not suffer from rampant grade inflation, a smart high-schooler hoping to major in the sciences can expect a GPA drop of one full point his/her freshman year from his/her senior year in high school. Your college GP will recover over your undergraduate career, but the first-year transition can be difficult even for smart kids; however, if you're aware of the pitfalls it doesn't have to happen to you.

    The single best method for intro physics is to do every single problem you can get your hands on. Every one. After you understand the concepts, repetition is the key for problem solving strategies and abilities. There are only a finite number of kinds of problems in intro physics - all that changes is numerical values/boundary conditions/etc. On the bright side, you won't have too many more new physics concepts as an undergrad. The next few years of classes cover about 70 - 80% of the same material again, just with more involved math! Stay ahead in that math.

    I would not worry about an online resource simply because more active and involved learning methods (i.e. doing problems) almost always works better. If you must, MIT's online courseware (ocw.mit.edu) has video lectures and course material from their physics courses online. Maybe their profs fit your style better.

    I would not go for the Feynman lectures at this point. If I remember, he generally assumes more math background (Diff Eq, Linear Alg) than the intro class you're in does.

    Good luck, and let us know how it goes.
  6. Feb 5, 2005 #5
    Hey I was looking at this guy's webpage and I noticed this nice tidbit:

    "And homework problems often appear (often with some "adjustments") on tests. Doing all of the homework correctly is the easiest way to improve your grade. Not doing homework is the easiest way to lower your grade."

    And he lets you drop a test/exam, which is very nice. Seems to me if you follow astraltourist's advice, or at least do 5 new physic problems every night, you should pass the class easilly. Another trick to do is to research on the web upon the concepts discussed. Often times there are alternative presentations that make a little more sense. Good luck!
  7. Feb 5, 2005 #6
    regular practice is enough for pass
    If you want a higher grade, you need extra effort

    I think astraltourist have given very good suggestions. but if you want more, see if it help:
  8. Feb 5, 2005 #7
    Thanks a lot for all the help. Basically yea I never studied in highschool so I am not used to the change but I have made the transition okay. I am currently in Calculus 2 after failing the first quiz I started doing all my homework and have gotten 100s on the following two quizes. I guess there really is no easy way out so I'll just man up and start reading more and doing problems even if they are unassigned. I appreciate all your responses.
  9. Feb 5, 2005 #8


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    This applies to more than just physics. I've seen a lot of this in biology as well (experienced it personally too...I was one of those who coasted through high school without studying and needed to learn darn quick how to study effectively when I got to college; it sure is a major adjustment). The students who were tops in their high school classes always seem the ones who struggle the most when they hit demanding college courses. Those who had to work for their grades in high school come in with slightly better study skills and seem to adjust a little more rapidly.

    When running into problems solving problems, make sure you aren't relying on a list of formulas that you're just plugging numbers into. Be sure you know how to derive formulas from just a few basic ones. If you understand how to derive them, you'll understand better what they mean and how to use them.

    And, if you haven't read your textbook, better get to it. In college, you're much more responsible for learning how to learn on your own, not just being spoon-fed everything as is done in high school. There is too much material to cover it all in lecture, so usually lectures only focus on the highlights and the things most likely to be misunderstood. There's a lot more in the textbook that you'll need to know. You didn't spend a small fortune on those books to use them to keep your bookshelves from floating away. :biggrin: Also, don't expect to be able to read through once like you'd read a book for pleasure reading. You're going to have to think about every sentence and how each paragraph, page and chapter relates to the one before. Reading textbooks for classes is time-consuming and requires full focus, so plan for quiet time to do this without distractions at whatever time of day you are at your most alert.
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