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On behalf of kids

  1. Mar 23, 2003 #1
    There have been some arguments going on in my thread "Urgent!: Schrodinger's Equation" about how 7th graders(and other kids) like myself are unable to understand physics just because they are kids. I wanted to start a new thread, where we could just discuss this matter but I am afraid it may get too contrevertial. Should I start the thread?
    Here is how I planned to start the thread:
    "In my thread, "Urgent!: Schrodinger's Equation", there has been an argument about how kids, particularly 7th graders like me, are unable to comprehend physics. Why? According to chroot, he believes its because a kid is a kid. I believe this is not true, naturally as I seem to have disproved him throughout my lifetime.

    what do YOU think? again, I beg of you, to keep the arguements civil, as this is probably going to be contravertial. If it does, none the less, get ugly(and you know what I mean), I will delete this post, and the deleting of this post will delete the rest of the thread. Or, a forum administrator will lock the thread.

    Please note that the sole purpose of this thread is simply to resolve a matter dealing with age discrimination."PLEASE DO NOT ARGUE IN SUCH A MANNER TO AN EXTENT THAT THE ARGUMENTS GET UGLY.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2003 #2


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    I don't believe it's because "a kid is a kid." Instead, I believe the level of mathematical sophistication necessary to fully understand QM requires years of dedicated learning.

    When I say "to understand QM," I don't mean "to have conceptual understanding." I mean "to have the ability to use the mathematical formalisms to calculate complete results from first principles." In other words, can you do as well on a final exam as late undergrad and graduate students -- who are the usual audience for QM?

    I seriously doubt that any 7th grader, even the proverbial child prodigies, has been alive enough years to master a looooong list of mathematical tools. I'm saying nothing of the inability of children to understand things -- I'm talking about how long it takes to learn complex math. There certainly ARE things that are off-limits to children, simply because some things takes years and years and years to learn.

    - Warren
  4. Mar 23, 2003 #3
    I'm sorry, for I misunderstood you, chroot.

    I agree with you, given the specifications of the mathiematical abilities of an anverage 7th grader. But, I do know an old friend (who might get transferred to my school, so I might invite him to come to PFs, as he'd be interested in this thread esp.) who is really intelligent, seriously. He has the potential to do QM.
    See, in general, kids don't have the mathematical ability to do QM, but, there are those profoundly gifted kids who are stuck in public schools. I know a lot of them, and I understand their perdicement; its quite a bit depressing. It takes a while to understand QM, yes I admit that. I have never really got into QM, just recently, when I was reading about loop quantum gravity, quantum geometry did it grasp my interest. I am more acustomed(sp? i am a bad speller, i know...) to Relativity, and its my strong point. I understand it very well, inlcuding the math involved.
  5. Mar 23, 2003 #4


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    As I've said before, I sincerely applaud your efforts and I think what you're doing is great. It's best to have a strong conceptual understanding of something before attacking the rigorous mathematical formalism anyway -- which will come with time.

    At the same time, though, I would advise that you do not tell people "you know QM" or such things -- there is unfortunately a great deal of work ahead of you still, and it's a little insulting to us that have already walked the road. Keep up the good work, though, and you will get there before you know it!

    - Warren
  6. Mar 23, 2003 #5
    "Physics First" is a curriculum where physics is taught before chemistry, biology or other particular fields of science. It is being introduced to many school systems with preliminary success. The logic behind this approach is that physics is more fundamental, thus lays a foundation for the other sciences.
  7. Mar 23, 2003 #6
    Really? You understand the math necessary for using relativity? I don't mean to be insulting, (please don't take anything I say to be insulting) but I really doubt that you understand the math neccesarry for relativity. The geometry used in relativity is extremelly complex, and is completely impossible without a thorough understanding of calculus. I'm quite certain I've taken many more years of math classes then you, and am still myself quite-aways away from understanding this math.

    I intimately understand your predicament, I was also extremely bored through math in my elementary and middle school years. Basically becuase when I was a child we lived in the ghetto and had no money while my dad was a graduate student, so instead of playing nintendo, going to movie, or watching tv for fun (we were too poor for such extravagances) my dad taught me math for fun (luckily I was too stupid to realize that most people didn't see math as fun and dove right into it) It took more then halfway through highschool for my math classses to catch up to my dad's tutoring. You can see how I would be bored. So I never did homework, always counted on being able to ace the tests blindfolded in order to squeak by, and went of and pretended to be able to understand much more complex things (see my post on wasting time with my dads astrodynamics books in your "urgent shrod. eqn." post)

    It hasn't been untill now that I realize that I would have been better off if instead of ignoring my teachers I put all my effort into those classes, had studied hard to understand absolutely everything they taught, did all the homework etc... in order to have a better foundation for when I went on to learn higher math. In fact this came back to haunt me for a while when i first started learning calculus. I was good at algebra that my dad had taught me, however I'd ignored a few useful tricks that my dad had glossed over, but my teachers had tried to teach to me. These tricks were particularly useful in calculus, so I had to go and re-learn parts of algebra I should have already known while I was taking calculus which was even more frustrating then being bored in algebra class.
  8. Mar 23, 2003 #7
    7th grade?
    Isn't that like the first year of secondary education.

    Quantum mechanics is largly over the heads of most university students. The reasons for this are that you need YEARS of exposure to physics in order to grasp QM fully.

    Nothing againsts 7th graders..... fine bunch of people, good rustic traditions, quaint..:E... but they usually don't understand QM because they haven't had enough years on this earth to BE exposed to physics.
  9. Mar 23, 2003 #8
    Chroot,like MajinVegeta, I deeply misunderstood you..... I apolagize for posting what I did.
  10. Mar 23, 2003 #9
    I think that kids have the copacity to perform far beond what they are doign now. The only problem is that our school systems in the US have just mixed potential with dead beats and the slower kids are moivng at their pace but the faster ones are moving at a slower pace. THen they brought in the gifted classes that only provide more work and just time consuming limted education homework and projects that just slow the kid down and ass stress to the kids life.

    hey i cant spell so do the best you can
  11. Mar 23, 2003 #10
    See thats great. I kinda wish my school had that. It would have made chemistry a bit easier to understand.

    But getting back to the original topic, learning anything requires a logical sequence of steps. Just like functions; you need to know basic algebra first. You didn't go straight from times tables to trigonometry, did you? And to reiterate what chroot, Janus, Tom, etc., etc., have all said, in order to have a proper grasp on QM or GR or whatever, you need to know the basics. Take me for example. I don't mean to blow my own horn but I believe I have a higher learning capacity than alot of people I know. I just finished reading "A Brief History of Time" and it just blew me away. And after reading it I have SO many questions. I could probably outpost all y'all. I would love to be able to probe the minds of these guys, but I would feel like I'd be wasting their valuable time (that's just my feelings). But the only formal education I currently have is a high school diploma and a few semesters of college (I would have continued but I kinda ran out of funds :frown:) so I've decided to work my way up the ladder of knowlegde by myself first, then ask questions. Like right now I'm redoing my old precalculus book that I had in highschool, cuz after being out of the learning loop for so many years I've practically forgotten it all. And after I get done with that I'm gonna buy a Calc I book and do that. Then a physics book. Then another math book, and so on till I get to the theoretical stuff. (Man! I got a long ways to go!) But its the only way to go. It stinks, I know, but ya gotta do it; we gotta do it. And we will.

    The end.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 23, 2003
  12. Mar 23, 2003 #11
    I remember this well. When I was in middle school I thought I knew some of this stuff very well. My conceptual analysis was very very powerful, and I had thought I understood the physics very well. However, after teaching myself the basics of calculus (now on BC calc) I find out that the maths are very complex and will indeed take much time to master. Physics is painted with math and while it is possible to interpret the picture, you must have a sound understanding of the tools to paint physics yourself. But never give up in the physics. I do think that as long as you don't let it get too out of hand, a bit of feeling confident about physics is a good thing. Not only does it inspire one to continue learning more, it also allows one to be very shocked when they learn there's much more out there to figure out. I myself always enjoy that.
  13. Mar 23, 2003 #12
    Well said.
  14. Mar 23, 2003 #13
  15. Mar 23, 2003 #14


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    Take Feynmann. Everybody agrees that he was very smart, in spite of flunking an IQ test. When he was about 7th grade age he started teaching himself math out of the "... for the Practical Man" series, now with PC renamed "... for the Practical Worker". He started with algebra, then geometry, then trig, thus completing the high school math program of the day by the time he finished 8th grade. He had to wait a long time for the final volume "Calculus for the Practical Man" to come out, but when it did he ate it up. By the time he was a senior in high school he was reading Dirac's Principles of Quantum Mechanics (but probably not getting everything out of it).

    This program would still work to get you up to basic quantum mechanics, say at the level of Sakurai's text, on your own. Probably by the time you were a College Freshman, which would mean you were about three years ahead of the pack.
  16. Mar 24, 2003 #15


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    Its not discrimination, and its not meant as an insult to your intelligence, its simply a level of knowledge issue. Much of what you learn is a progression. The best example is math where if you take any course out of order (with a few exceptions) you will be hopelessly lost. But other subjects are the same way. Applied to physics, it means you can't possibly understand what a quark or a positron is until you know what an atom is. Similarly a discussion of relativity's impact on classical physics is useless until you know what classical physics is (Newton's laws).

    This is just a message board. We can't teach you your next 4 science and math classes in 10,000 words.
  17. Mar 24, 2003 #16
    hi Majin,
    i remember when i was in 8 th grade i started reading a book on path integral formulation on quantum mechanics. soon i got more interested and bought book containing mathematical formulation of QM .to say the least i was baffled by my first intro to higher level algebra of operators and differentials.i soon realized that there is no short cut to learning maths involved.

    BUT the imporatant thing is that books like QED, ghost in the atom,hyperphysics(the list goes on,thanks to pop-sci culture) do help A LOT in to enthrall you by laws of nature and thus your interest never weekens which (hopefully)leads you to a successful career in physics or enginnering.

    had your topic for presentation been 'basics of QM' or something like that it would have been easier for you due to your conceptual understanding. but when you talk of 'how to solve schrody for getting wave-fn. ' then maths is INVARIABLY involved.(no offence intended for the topic choosen :wink: :smile: )

    keep learning the physics AND maths.
    as chroot said , " you will reach there before you know it ".

    cheers :wink:
  18. Mar 24, 2003 #17
    Hmm..maybe the math I've seen seems understandable. But no one seems to understand that I can understand a lot; all I ever do, during my math class, is just after 10-15 (depending on how much of the lesson my teacher has to go over)of copying down notes (absent mindedly) and listening to 10 (usually) instructions on something, I pretty much get it. I wouldn't say master it; since I have an issue(A LOT to say about it) with "mastering" anything...but that's another story. SO, IOW, I would teach myself calculus and stuff, but...I'm afraid I won't understand it or even worse, finish studying it(!)....maybe I should just face my fears...
    Anyhow, climbhi, I understand a lot of the physics I've seen. I've probably just seen more of the fundemental math, infering from what you had to say. It is much easier for me to understand the math in physics because I visualize it better, I have more of an understanding of it. Sometimes, something won't click, because of the several self contradictory questions that fill my head when I learn anything.
  19. Mar 24, 2003 #18
    Yeah but you have to remember, Magin, that most of modern physics just can't be visualized by us becuase it goes against everything we experience in daily life, I mean seriously "particle-like-waves" that's not visualizable, nor is much of modern physics, understandable yes, but it's not like in newtonian mechanics where you can visualize a baseball trajectory or something.

    And as far as math in General Relativity goes, you must have only seen a very introductory approach to it, becuase the full treatment of it, from what I understand, is more mathematically sophisticated then most college undergraduates are capable of understanding (I'm not sure, well, becuase I am still an undergrad).

    It's neat that you like physics, and you certainly shouldn't stop wondering and investigating what lies ahead, but remember don't get to wrapped up in it that you forget to study and really really master what you're learning now becuase it reall is the foundation for what's to come, and without it you'll be left to just stupid memorization tricks in your college classes instead of actually being able to understand what's happening, and trust me I see a lot of people here who have to resort to these idiot memorization tricks instead of being capable of understanding what's going on, and it doesn't look fun at all.
  20. Mar 25, 2003 #19
    I agree with you, climbhi. I, and others should focus on understanding the concept, and not simply memorize it. well said!:wink:
  21. Mar 25, 2003 #20
    Amen to that. If you have a solid physical insight into a system, the maths that describe it should flow very easily to mind, and you have no need to memorize many equations.
  22. Mar 25, 2003 #21


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    While modern developments in GR are indeed difficult, the basic theory as Einstein presented it, up to the Schwartzschild solution, is accessible to anyone who understands partial derivatives, functions of several real variables, and a little linear algebra. It is not beyond a college undergraduate with a math concentration at all.
  23. Mar 25, 2003 #22
    What are some of the pros and cons of home schooling children?

    Or hiring a private tutor?

    If I ever decide to breed or adopt... I think I would likely do either of the above.

    I am a passionate empathizer with being a victim of rubbish pedagogy or... an educational system that is just blatantly incompatable with one's learning.
  24. Mar 25, 2003 #23
    This sounds like a pretty good thread topic, entropia.
  25. Mar 25, 2003 #24
    Remember now, I said most undergrads, I don't know about where you are but math majors are about the smallest group of people here at my school, and I imagine most. If it wasn't for the fact that colleges have to have all those math professors so that they can keep their engineering and pre-med programs they'd probably drop the math department all together in order to invest more in biology for all the pre-meds or something dumb like that. And physics programs aren't very much larger, which is sad, but true.

    I guess I was thinking more about the topology necessary for modern GR, but still I highly doubt that most 7th graders have even been introduced to regular derivative let alone partial derivatives and the like.

    Perhaps what Majin was referring to was special relativity, there are some formulas there that are pretty basic if I'm thinking right, but this does not represent the whole of relativity.
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