Overzealous to Major in Physics?

Well, after much delay I finally am taking physics I - mechanics as it is required for my major whether or not I switch to physics. Over the past few months I had gotten really passionate and excited about a future in astrophysics but am disappointed as the easy stuff isn't coming all that naturally to me.

I expected to be able to fly through physics I but was caught by surprise of the difficulty of even the first few weeks of my physics course. Motion in 2/3 dimensions problems are giving me way more run for my money than I had ever expected. I seems to be getting the concepts fine and usually am even able to set up the problem preliminarily, yet I'll come out with a junk answer more often than not in the end. This leaves with no confidence in my work. I reminded that a similar thing happened when I first started doing calculus, yet finally after doing hundreds of problems I trust myself to get the right answer in my math classes.

So what I really need to ask is how bad of sign is it that I am having a hang up on such basic stuff. I was really hoping for a future career in physics, is this a sign I'm just not cut out for this sort of problem solving? Do I just need to get used to the format of the course(its been a very long time since I took a science course, mostly only pure math)? Is there anything I can do? I'd be heartbroken not to get an A in this course and my first test is in two weeks? Is there a way of thinking about physics that you come to after awhile where everything just clicks into place or should I already be mastering this stuff?

Thanks for your help physics forums!


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Too early to stop and change. The first real Physics course is difficult. You must learn to think analytically and trust your Algebra and Math and apply them correctly. This will develop with effort and practice.
If you truly do understand the concepts then you should definitely continue working on it. I am current a physics major undergraduate in my second year of physics as a physics major. In my experience, it is much more crucial that you understand the concepts. I am certain that you are coming up with wrong answers because you are not being meticulous with your mathematical calculations. I think if you work on your math, the answers will begin to come. Do not worry about not having mastered this stuff yet. It takes lots of practice working projectile motion problems over and over again. I would also say that there is a certain mindset you must have when studying physics. It is hard to explain, but you will know when you have found it. Things will begin to click. By the way, a good way to make motion in two and three dimensions easier is to always remember that motion in one direction is completely independent of motion in another direction.
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I reminded that a similar thing happened when I first started doing calculus, yet finally after doing hundreds of problems I trust myself to get the right answer in my math classes.
There may be the occasional students for whom the solutions come naturally and easily, but these are outliers. For the vast majority, the general trend is as you describe above.
This is your first physics course so I wouldn't get discuraged. Just do alot of practice problems. Gradually you will learn to think analytically and you will build problem solving skills. It may be difficult but it will build the foundation for later more difficult classes.

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