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Physics 1 harder than Calculus 1?

  1. Sep 26, 2013 #1

    I've been around the forums before, but I finally decided to create an account to post things. :)

    I'm currently a sophomore in college majoring in physics. At my school physics 1 and calculus 1 are a co-requisite not a prerequisite, meaning I can take physics 1 and calculus 1 concurrently. The physics 1 I'm currently in is calculus based as well.

    I'm doing fine in calculus, I love math and it comes naturally to me simply because I have Aspergers. Physics, on the other hand, I am struggling with. I understand the lectures, but when it comes time for group work, I'm not sure how to set the problems up. I guess a more accurate term would be applying those concepts. Once I know how to set the problems up, then it becomes straightforward from there because of the arithmetic. I've had physics in high school and I got an A in the class, which was two years ago, but I remember most of it.

    Same applies for the lab. I don't work well with other people, I've always preferred to do things on my own, but I know I'll eventually have to suck it up and get used to it. I don't like the labs because I'm not a kinesthetic learner. Plus the undergrad labs are more of a "cookbook" approach if you think about it.

    I'm sorry for the long post, but I just need advice. Perhaps it could be that I'm not spending enough time studying the material. After all, my physics professor did say that it's hard transitioning from math to physics.

    P.S. Also, I'm not sure how to do this, but how would you go about putting formulas/equations into LaTeX form on here? I think that's what it's called, but I'm not sure, lol.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2013 #2


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  4. Sep 26, 2013 #3


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    Math and physics are two different beasts. Being proficient at one doesn’t guarantee you’ll be proficient at the other. The same applies to the question of one being more difficult with respect to the other, it’s all perspective based. Many people I’ve taken physics with find math more difficult, where as some believe physics is harder.

    Math is just a tool in physics, and if you try to remember physics as procedures, operations, problems, and formula you’ll just shoot yourself in the foot. You should be able to think the problems through, understanding them of course being more important than solving them, and give up any notions of being able to memorize or even recall all the physics formulas, and instead learn to derive them based on their meaning and the fundamentals of physics.

    At least that’s working for me; personally, I find math classes more difficult.
  5. Sep 27, 2013 #4
    For me physics coursework was harder then most mathematics homework (with the exception of real and functional analysis). My approach was to generally avoid working in groups unless I had absolutely no idea about what the question was asking, I found I worked better at home on my own. I still feel the same way answering coursework type questions, sometimes it's really straight forward and other times you have to repeatedly read the question over and over and pick at bits until you realise what's actually going on. Sometimes the best thing to do is, if you have the time, approach the question in every way you can think of and explicitly work out why what you have done is incorrect / correct.

    As for group work, I never had any good experiences with group work in my undergraduate or masters. At the Phd level working with others is much, much better.

    Unfortunately if you are more theoretically orientated you will have to endure labs throughout the whole degree, generally they are straight forward to conduct, like you said, but a lot of the time the physical concepts behind them aren't learnt properly because really you just end up rushing through the steps so you finish in time and get a decent grade.

    The last lab I had was during masters coursework, it was for parametric down conversion which is pretty complicated and was not explained at all. The whole lab was essentially to read of the light intensity under a few different conditions (like you rotate the polarisation or something like that). Most of the people got through the lab without even knowing what was happening, that's just the way it is. I think universities should really think up a better scheme then this.
  6. Sep 27, 2013 #5


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    I prefer to think of lab work as the equivalent of an apprenticeship. Most people understand concepts more clearly when applied to problem solving exercises. Problem arise when lab courses fail to properly explain the objectives of lab work. Could you learn electronics solely by lectures and textbooks? Yes, but, most would benefit more from experience diagnosing and repairing electronic devices using schematics.
  7. Sep 27, 2013 #6
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2013
  8. Sep 27, 2013 #7
    You are absolutely right. It is all opinionated, some people prefer math to be harder or vice versa. Thanks for the advice.
  9. Sep 27, 2013 #8
    Yeah, I've never worked well in groups either. I usually take forever trying to set the problems up, just to make sure I have everything right. I usually prefer to work alone.

  10. Sep 27, 2013 #9
    I see your point. Labs are important, I understand, I just need a better approach in the labs I suppose.
  11. Sep 27, 2013 #10


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    Do you have enough opportunity to plan ahead for your laboratory assignments? If you do this, then you will work more effectively in the lab class session, and you will be able to interact with some of the other students in your class session to help them.
  12. Sep 27, 2013 #11
    Yes, I usually read the lab that we are doing that day the night before and on the day of the lab a few hours before class.
  13. Sep 27, 2013 #12


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    Do they have a lab prep session by any chance? Or time you can go in there and run through the lab on your own. Getting familiar with your test equipment and the problem can help out quite a bit.
  14. Sep 27, 2013 #13
    No, they don't sadly. :(
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