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Self Education

  1. Aug 19, 2013 #1
    Hello everyone. I've been on this forum for a little while, but haven't posted much, so here's a little about me. I'm 26 and a college dropout. I went for a year and a half after high school and discovered that I was no where near mature enough to be out on my own. Jump forward seven years and I have my stuff in order and would love to go back to school. There are a few problems though.

    I don't have the finances currently to go back, and work a full time job. Yes I know there are several people that juggle a full time job and school, which I would do other than my financial situation. I originally went to school for Computer Science, but have decided that I would much rather go for Astrophysics. It seems to be the only thing that continues to keep me interested. I know that it's a difficult field and it's tough to get a job pertaining to it. I still want to do it however.

    My question is since I've been out of school for so long, and my current job doesn't require math or physics, (and I've forgotten a lot about it) what do you suggest I do so I can re-learn it. I ultimately want to get into a situation where I feel comfortable going back to school and have the knowledge to know what's going on in the classroom. When I was in school I was decent at math, not great, not horrible. There were some things I struggled with, but I usually got it. Also the only physics class I took was in high school, and I did really well. I also took an astronomy class in college and that solidified my passion for it.

    If there's anything I left out let me know and I appreciate all the help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 19, 2013 #2
    I think I'd look into local community colleges and take a few night courses. Math and physics if you can. If you go back for Astrophysics, you'll probably want/need to take math along the lines of calculus, vector calculus, and linear algebra. If you can knock some of those out now and get back into the swing of things, that would be good.

    Same goes for physics. Look into mechanics and electricity and magnetism. Often times there are some 'general physics' courses that cover those topics and others at a non-major level. Even if your Astrophysics program doesn't require all of these topics, they wouldn't be bad things to learn and would help you get in the right mindset.
  4. Aug 19, 2013 #3
    Good advice.

    However, since you probably didn't really do math the last years, you might have forgotten some of the basics. So taking a college algebra course, trig courses and beyond wouldn't be bad. If you go to a community college (which I highly recommend), then they probably have a placement test. They will gauge how much math you know and place you in the right class.

    Whatever you do, I really recommend going through the awesome book "Basic Mathematics" by Lang. It contains everything you need to know of math until calculus. It would make a very decent refresher or a good test to see what you remember.
  5. Aug 19, 2013 #4


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    Khan Academy and MOOCs. Start with Khan to figure out what you remember and what you don't. Then take a MOOC class or two in the things you want to learn. For example, here's an easy introductory calculus course starting soon. You might want to think about working your way up to this Caltech astrophysics class, which will likely be available again next year.

    These things are free and convenient. They give you a relatively pain-free way to ease into studying so you can find out if its really what you want.
  6. Aug 19, 2013 #5
    Thanks for the quick responses everyone! I have used Khan Academy before, but haven't looked into MOOCs. I'll do that when I get done with work tonight. I've also thought about the community college thing, and need to look into it a little more to figure out pricing, scheduling, etc. Keep the suggestions coming, especially as far as books and things go for self learning.
  7. Aug 19, 2013 #6
    Khan and MOOCs are excellent resources. Use them! However, don't use them as only resources. They should only ever be used as secondary resources. You can't replace an actual textbook by online learning.
  8. Aug 19, 2013 #7
    I understand completely. I will be looking into the textbook you suggested when I get done with work. Are there any others I should look into, or start with that and go from there?
  9. Aug 19, 2013 #8
    Depends. If you think your math is good enough to start with calculus immediately, then go for it. Otherwise, you might want to go through the book I suggested. Once you're done with that, you can start with calculus and algebra-based physics. But before asking for book suggestions, you should probably read the Lang book to see whether you like the style or not.
  10. Aug 19, 2013 #9


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    I definitely think it helps to follow your interest. If you want to learn math, read about interesting topics in math. If you see a word you don't know, look it up, read about it, you may understand very little but at least you'll know in what area of math it lies. Eventually you'll start to remember things that you've seen a couple of times. Nurture a sense of discovery and that should keep you interested.

    There was a user here not long ago, I think he left after being warned a few times because he was always trying to answer questions he knew nothing about, but he had the right attitude to learning: keep it interesting and don't fear to read ahead. The more you know about a subject, the more likely it is that your book learning will be successful.
  11. Aug 19, 2013 #10
    Definitely not ready for calculus right away. I'll check out that book and go from there. Thanks!

    I'll look into some of that, but I think I want to get my feet wet and then head into it a bit more. Thanks for the suggestion though!
  12. Aug 21, 2013 #11
    Well I have a day off today, and as soon as I'm free doing housework I'll start working on Khan Academy. Is there a recommended place to get "Basic Mathematics" or is Amazon about the best?

    Also going to be looking into the links that were posted, as well as MOOCs, and the community college here.
  13. Aug 21, 2013 #12


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    Also look here (learnerstv.com), tons of videos if anything needs refreshing. Also, I recommend https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-lis...?ie=UTF8&condition=used&qid=1377117347&sr=8-2 for good coverage of algebra topics, this edition is very cheap. There's also a trigonometry book available https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-lis...rds=cynthia+young+trigonometry&condition=used.

    Best of luck.

    PS. Treat these as alternate recommendations. Lang's book is not too expensive and it does seem to cover everything you need.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  14. Aug 21, 2013 #13
    Thanks, I just went in and bookmarked those links. I wish I would have brought my reading glasses home, but I will be checking out some of that stuff tonight. Also I'll be picking up a notebook tonight so I can do some of the exercises with Khan, and when I get that book if there's anything in there to go with.

    I'm going to search for my TI-83 tonight so that I'll have it on hand if necessary. I'm also going to create a schedule for myself so that I can budget my time accordingly. Has anyone done this or have an opinion on how it may work?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  15. Aug 25, 2013 #14
    I haven't gotten a chance to order the book yet, but I do have a pdf copy of it. I was wondering what you think of online courses? I know that you don't get as involved, and may miss a lot of stuff from the classroom, but it's also easier to access. Let me know what your opinion is on it. Either way I'm going to start out with reading that book, doing the exercises and looking for some MOOCs. Anyone have a good website that I can use to search for some MOOCs?
  16. Aug 25, 2013 #15


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    Here's one list at Class Central. Google is your friend.

    You might find Keith Devlin's Mathematical Thinking class interesting. It starts next week.

    This class looks like an easy introduction to calculus. Somebody on a home schooling list I'm on said her 8th grader really enjoyed it. The current session just started.

    I'm thinking you really want cheap (free), easy to get started with, self-paced, and easy to quit if they're the wrong thing for you. MOOCs offer that. No worries as to your age or prior knowledge. There aren't all that many serious high level classes yet, but they're slowly appearing in some fields. Right now I think they're right about where you need them to be. Look at the physics classes too.
  17. Aug 25, 2013 #16
    Thanks! I really appreciate it. You're right with the fact that I want really cheap or free classes.

    I just signed up for that course. It's nice that it doesn't require a book, though I may end up getting the one they suggested anyway since it is cheap.
  18. Aug 31, 2013 #17
    Finally ordered "Basic Mathematics" by Lang, and the two MOOCs I signed up for start Monday and Tuesday. I'm pretty excited to be doing some education again.
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