1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Self-learning math before physics undergrad.

  1. Jun 1, 2015 #1
    I must say at first that my English is not that good. If that's important to state, i am living in Brazil, waiting currently to start my Physics college in the next seven months.

    My question is pretty simple: What is good to learn before starting college, in terms of Math and Physics itself? I have a lot of free time at the moment, and i am currently looking for a good start at my university - Which subjects should i master and where can i study them properly? By asking that, i mean books and/or the internet itself.

    Thank you! I hope you guys understood me :woot:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2015 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    For physics, you can use any standard textbook like https://www.amazon.com/University-Physics-Technology-Update-Edition/dp/0321898028 or https://www.amazon.com/Physics-Volume-1-David-Halliday/dp/0471320579 and https://www.amazon.com/Physics-Volume-2-David-Halliday/dp/0471401943.

    A very good book on mechanics is https://www.amazon.com/An-Introduction-Mechanics-Daniel-Kleppner/dp/0521198119

    An excellent book on electromagentism is https://www.amazon.com/Essentials-Electromagnetism-MacMillan-Physical-Science/dp/1563962535.

    The Feynman lectures are fabulous, and available free at http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/ (even though they have a couple of accidental mistakes).

    Ralph Fitzpatrick http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching.html and David Tong http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/tong/teaching.html have lots of good and free lecture notes on various physics topics.

    For mathematics that is useful for physics, one can learn the calculus https://www.amazon.com/Schaums-Outline-Calculus-6th-Edition/dp/0071795537 and linear algebra https://www.amazon.com/Schaums-Outline-Linear-Algebra-Edition/dp/0071794565.

    Good free calculus texts are https://www.gutenberg.org/files/33283/33283-pdf.pdf and http://ocw.mit.edu/resources/res-18-001-calculus-online-textbook-spring-2005/textbook/ (good video lectures also).

    A good free linear algebra text is http://www.math.brown.edu/~treil/papers/LADW/LADW.html.

    Good free references for slightly more advanced practical mathematics are http://www.physics.miami.edu/~nearing/mathmethods/ and http://www.goldbart.gatech.edu/PostScript/MS_PG_book/bookmaster.pdf, as well as the various lecture notes at http://www.math.umn.edu/~olver/.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  4. Jun 1, 2015 #3


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    Your English seems just fine. :smile:

    As far as math is concerned, having a solid foundation in algebra and trigonometry is essential. Having an understanding of the basics of differentiation and integration is beneficial, but not always necessary. First semester physics courses vary somewhat as far as their prerequisites are concerned. Some of them require one to have previously taken Calculus I, while others assume that most students are taking Calculus I concurrently. Having some exposure to calculus before starting physics is very helpful though. It makes it much easier to understand things like the relationship between position, velocity, and acceleration, or things like work and energy.
  5. Jun 1, 2015 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Usually math is what beats you. But schools know this, and integrate the math you need to know into the physics. In fact that's what generally differentiates physics from an applied math degree like I did. In physics you do the math as you go along - in applied math you do the math first. For example in applied math you study the Schroedinger equation in a partial differential equations course before QM, but in physics you do it while studying QM.

    But if you want to get a head start a good book to get a grip on the math you need, in the applied math way of doing the math first, is the following:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Threads - Self learning math Date
Courses Self-Learning new material vs. Covering the basics Jun 21, 2016
Studying Self-Learning Physics and math Jun 14, 2016
Best Ways to Self Learn Math May 20, 2013
Self learning for physics and math May 2, 2013
Self-learning math for a physics major Apr 24, 2012