Non-Calc Based Physics

1. Nov 26, 2006

Cod

Does taking a physics class that isn't calc-based before taking calc-based physics help understanding at all? Basically, I'm wondering if the concepts learned in a non-calc based physics class are actually usable or just something they teach you in high school that is completely "dismissed" once a calc-based physics class is taken.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

2. Nov 26, 2006

mgiddy911

I can''t vouch for how much it helped conceptually, but I took algebra based physics in high school. It certainly has made my calc physics in college easier, just beasue alot of the calc arises in the derivations of the equations, not the equations them selves. So the majority of the first semester has been review of my high school physics class. However, i am also in calc 3 concurrently so that helps out quite a bit also because I can understand the math alot deeper than some of the studentes who are in calc 1 for the first time

3. Nov 27, 2006

physics girl phd

The "concepts" in physics won't change between a hardly-math based "conceptual physics," and "algebra-based" class, and a "calc-based" class... so an algebra course IS highly useful. The mathematics is perhaps more "elegant" in a calc-based course (if you like math) ... but the curriculum of an algebra-based course still covers important physics. AND -- don't YOU want to be able to later explain physics to a "layperson"? Taking courses taught at MANY levels of math will help you do that.

4. Nov 27, 2006

^_^physicist

I've worked with other students (workshop leader) for algebra based physics and let me tell you, the problems are about the same as any of the calculus problems.

Some connections between things are hidden (such as you don't get to know that F=ma is a second order diff. eq.; or that velocity is the derivitive of displacement, with respect to time). And if you know the math, this might drive you crazy.

However, if you don't know, or aren't that fond of calculus, I would suggest that it is the utmost importance to take the course with algebra only. It gives a really good background to work with, and it helps build a better understanding of problem solving techniques.

Sometimes an algebra course is also better at getting to the physics of a problem, rather than giving an application for calculus; which I will admit in many physics courses it can feel like you just did this question in you calculus course eariler that day.

But if you comfortable with a calculus based course, take that instead anyway, it makes the upper division physics courses a lot less daunting (classical mechanics courses, at least the ones I am enrolled in, are very much exercises in solving diff. eq.).

5. Nov 27, 2006