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Physics 2 without taking Calculus 3 - Mistake?

  1. Jan 10, 2012 #1

    At my school physics 2 has calculus 1 as a prerequisite. You don't have to take calculus 3 while taking physics 2 or prior to taking it. I found physics 2 to be extremely difficult. I was taking while taking calculus 2. We got into flux integrals, Gaussian surface integrals, and some other topics that covered vector fields and object moving in them.

    Oddly enough while teaching myself calculus 3 over winter break to make taking calculus 3 easier this semester I came across the EXACT topics in my calculus book. Surface integrals, Gaussian surface integrals, vector fields, line integrals etc. If I had taken calculus 3 before taking physics 2 I think I would of done much better.

    Did you taking vector/multivariable calculus 3 before taking physics 2 or no? I really wish I did because I probably would of gotten a better grade and could of actually understood what the heck I was learning. Flux integrals, Gaussian surface integrals, and some other topics towards the end of year really didn't make much sense to me at all. I was like what's that integral symbol with a circle on it, Why is area a vector, what's a partial derivative... now that I have learned calculus 3 I actually understand what these things are and don't understand why calculus 3 is not a prerequisite to physics 2.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 10, 2012 #2
    Already having the math down is obviously a huge advantage because you can actually focus on learning the physics, but I assume that you learnt how do to the math you needed during class in some fashion?
  4. Jan 10, 2012 #3
    Perhaps at your school it should have been. Most course curriculum's are different district by district. In high school I took Physics 2 and only had taken Calc 1. I didn't run into anything that baffled me math wise. I'm sure it was a lot easier than your course. It's all relative.
  5. Jan 10, 2012 #4
    ya i think it should of been. We went over the deviation of some stuff but it was like really quick and it was all new me and I was just seeing it for the first time. Gradient, divergence, curl... I was like what's that little upside down triangle thingy =(

    but ya i actually took physics 2 at my university and not in high school and i must say that the beginning of the semester was very very easy we started off doing kinematics and rotational motion and it was pretty easy and stuff I already knew from physics 1. Well I guess I didn't learn rotation in physics 1 but it was easy. But towards the end of the semester when we got into electrodynamics and we got into some topics that I had never seen in physics 1. It wasn't just physics 1 with calculus but physics 1 with calculus and more topics and I was just like lost lol
  6. Jan 10, 2012 #5
    I took...
    Gen Physics Prob for Engineers
    in a american university my first semester in college
    I had to take physics 2 but because I took physics 1 in high school they placed me in that course instead of physics 2 for whatever reason, i guess becuase I took ap physics b in high school and it was a two semester physics 1 course that had no calculus instead of your only 1 semester physics 1 course i guess i would of taken my first semester... so i guess there were some differences between AP Physics B and Physics 1 so i got put into like a equivalent course that was suppose to be like equal work or something but the math was way above my head
  7. Jan 10, 2012 #6
    At my school, the EE's take Diffy Q before Calc 3 so last semester I took Diffy Q and Physics 2 together. I did the same thing as you this break, I looked over the Calc 3 material to get a teaser for the upcoming semester. It was all the math that we barreled through in Physics 2.. I would say ~90% of the kids in my Physics 2 class were taking Calc 3 at the same time because they weren't EE's so the majority probably wasn't that confused.

    When things like line integrals, flux, fields, Biot-Savart's law (integral with a cross product) were introduced my jaw dropped because I didn't understand the math and the physics. Most of the crazy looking math turned out to be pretty easy because of symmetry but I felt I couldn't grasp a bigger picture of what was going on without knowing that math.

    With that said, I'm extremely excited to take Calc 3 this coming semester. My plan is to take E&M from the physics department in a couple semesters to fulfill a physics minor I really hope by then I can tie those two classes together so I'm ready for that physics class. I highly recommend taking Calc 3 with Physics 2 if at all possible for anyone else.
  8. Jan 10, 2012 #7
    ya it defiantly would of helped me for sure.
  9. Jan 10, 2012 #8
    I took calc III while taking physics II, but my class did not cover much from actual vector calculus (just the concept of a gradient). I wouldn't look at it as too disconcerting. You're really not supposed to come out of introductory physics with a solid understanding of the material presented. In fact, I think you got a taste of Physics Proper. Sometimes you've never taken the mathematics from which a physics theorem is derived, and sometimes you'll be researching a physics problem without knowing much about the mathematics involved (at least, when you first start - hopefully you'd pick up on it as you go along).
  10. Jan 10, 2012 #9
    Depends, I'd ask the professor. I took the two at the same time (along with ODE) and found no problem. However in my class all the math that required any vector calculus always simplified to something trivial. So all of maxwell's equations were presented in proper integral form but reduced to a point where you dont need to know anything past basic integration. A couple of times I need to evaluate a gradient but theres nothing to it.

    However vector algebra (which is something I went over in calc3 though I learned in physics/statics first) was used alot. Simple enough stuff though.

    The real problem solving with vector calc comes in the second course of EM (Either the junior level EM course for physics or the Fields and Waves type course for EEs)
  11. Jun 4, 2012 #10
    I know this thread is several months old, but for the record, I definitely wished I had taken Calc III the semester before I took Physics 2... so I could focus on learning physics, as another fellow pointed out, instead of trying to interpret math I've never seen before that has several steps omitted in the interest of saving space...

    Learning math is easiest for me from a math book
    Learning math is most difficult for me from a physics book
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2012
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