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Never good enough

  1. Mar 8, 2005 #1
    I'm not exactly sure where to begin. I feel woefully unprepared right now, despite my best efforts. No matter how hard I try, I always end up coming short. Recently in Calculus class we got into variable work and im trying to understand it (doesn't do that great of a job at describing physics) and some of the problems can be extremely difficult, even though I devote a lot of time to the subject and try to best of my ability to understand it.

    Even though I keep up with my homework every night (and even go beyond and do extra problems to better understand the material and not just try to get an A) I still feel as though I am not prepared, specifically that a strong background in basic calculus is not enough sustain me in college. I'm not even very fast at doing the problems (I was brought up to approach problems slowly and methodically), something that may be to my disadvantage come AP test time. Not good enough.

    Recently in Calculus class I was the only one who didn't advance on with the homework assignment, trying desperately to understand the concept before jumping into the problems (even asking inane thought questions which at the time seemed rather cool and interesting), yet despite this studiousness still coming up short.

    My online algebra physics class is a good example of my missed concepts. It doesn't do that great of a job at explaining things and I think that im wasting my time. It is very watered down and doesn't even get to some of the more advanced topics, and states laws without mathematically deriving them. I have a feeling it will come back to bite me when I actually start taking mechanics courses in college. At this level that im in right now, I should be able to at least understand mathematically some intermediate Newtonian mechanics (tension, friction, etc.) but yet I am not. Never good enough.

    Heck, my precalculus class last year skipped over vectors, and trying to learn it by myself somewhat (it is much easier with a tutor or a teacher), but I know that I need it for sure in college. All of these important concepts that I am missing.. I feel like im being slowly left behind, despite my best efforts to teach myself.

    I realize that undergraduate physics builds the base for everything built up upon that, and if I am not ready for that... I don't know what im going to do.

    I hardly think that my studious work ethic alone can get me through. Lacking and biting off more than I can chew.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 8, 2005 #2
    I'm not clear on if you're in highschool or in college? :)
    If you're in highschool, don't sweat it so much and get a tutor.
  4. Mar 8, 2005 #3
    I took this class called AP calc/phys in highschool. Its supposed to be calc 1 some calc 2 and mechanics. Most kids usually retake all three classes no matter what anyways. I got a D in that class, and i went straight to Calc 3 (multvar) my senior year. Sometimes it was harder to keep up since my calc foundation was undoubtably lacking, but really, it wasn't so bad. I got an A in calc 3. It took a little bit more work than i would've liked.... but it filled in all (the tons) of holes i had.

    You a very studious guy, and very smart. I know that you can handle things. Most people in highschool, (least in my calc class,) and even from what i see of my peers in college, don't get calc very easily right away. But you've got quite a few classes of it to go through, and by the end of it all, you'll get it much better. You may even retake calc in college, i know tons of kids who do that, (pretty much everyone i know actually.) and you'll be pleanty ready for physics. Most kids don't take any physics before mechanics, or if they do, its watered down just like yours. You don't even need to take calc before physics. Don't worry, when you get to college, you'll be fine. I totally slacked in highschool, and i'm doing alright. I can't imagine that you wouldn't.

    Your biggest problem is probably that you're so worried about it. If you really think you need to, get a tutor, or even... ask for help here! I'm sure you'll do fine, and if not just masturbate... *inside joke*
  5. Mar 8, 2005 #4


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    You can't expect high school courses to be as rigorous as any college-level course; this even applies to a Calculus sequence. You certainly can't expect to see any sort of derivations for anything in a high school-level physics course because of the pre/co-requisite of Calculus is usually needed.

    I wouldn't worry about material being skipped over in the courses you're enrolled in. Chapter 1 (or 3 if you're a Resnick fan) of almost every (modern) Calculus-based Physics text has an introduction to vectors/vector operations. Usually, a quick overview of the chapter will suffice for a thorough, if not functional, understanding of vectors.

    As Gale said and a consequence of what I said earlier, most kids do retake the higher level high school school courses in college. Why? The instructor of the college classes usually has a PhD; therefore, he or she is more qualified, and it's a rigourous review.
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2005
  6. Mar 8, 2005 #5
    If you're already trying to understand the concepts and not just the mechanics of calculus, you're already way ahead of everybody else. If you're already trying to understand the concepts of physics and not just how to do simple physics problems, you've already beaten out the huge majority of college students.

    Don't worry about not being able to do every problem faster than everybody else in your class can. You may start off slower trying to grasp the concepts, but once you get them, they'll stick with you. Your classmates are most likely just memorizing the method the teacher taught them to solve the problem, and they'll forget it in a few months. In a bit of time, they won't be able to solve the problem at all, whereas you'll still be able to.

    As for the inadequacy of the American high school education system, I won't rant anymore on that. I'll just say that it's a disservice to many ambitious students. Don't worry, it gets better in college, if you take the right courses.

    Also, you may have difficulty finding a tutor or even a teacher that is solid enough on the concepts to help you with them. Many teachers are little more than glorified high school students, and can't really do much more than what they've already shown you. To find a tutor, you'll have to look at a nearby university to get someone decent. Anybody else will probably just be like one of your classmates.

  7. Mar 9, 2005 #6
    Thanks Gale, graphic7, and Justin for the helpful advice.

    Ive been rather ancy lately, restless even. This senior year has been very dreary and I long to get out of it. I hate having to go to school only to not learn anything during the day, waste of both my time and my efforts. Im trying to fill the void through self-instruction and im getting too ambitious. I keep thinking that I have to know anything and everything about the material if I am to succeed.

    So I end up worrying over every little thing that bugs me, and occasionally putting myself down for not being as prepared as I should be.

    Actually, I still am ancy and restless, I feel compelled to use my time wisely, and when not given that opportunity, lose reason and worry over every single little thing imaginable. High school doesn't give very much opportunity to use that time wisely, so I end up wasting it and regretting it for trivial reasons.
  8. Mar 9, 2005 #7


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    High school isn't a productive environment - nowhere productive as you would like it to be. I had the same problems when I attended it, and I got through those years by separating my high school work from the `work' that I would like to have done in high school. That way I didn't have the desire for the instructor showing me that extra bit of material, because my independent studies took care of that. I suggest you lower your expectations of what high school should be, and save that for college, while at the same time, you indulge yourself in independent study. If you provide yourself with plenty of independent study and self-discovery, you'll be much more prepared for college classes than any typical high-school student whose transcript is riddled with `AP-this-and that.' Not to mention, you'll also appreciate the material that's brought up in those college classes much more. You'll say to yourself, "Ah, finally after so much of doing (studying) it on my own, this is how it's really done by someone that knows what he/she is doing."

    Edit: If anything, when your instructor omits material that you might have studied, you can at least laugh (silently) at the others for being ignorant of it and go about your business.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2005
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