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!

Studying Self-study for a beginner: how to pace math vs. physics?

  1. Dec 11, 2016 #1
    I'm new to the forums (here's my intro post). Also new to studying physics, though I did do one year in high school many decades back, too far to really count; and in addition have been studying EM & electronics for the past year, but mostly in an applied sense. Aside from enjoying myself, one of my goals is to very very very slowly do enough self-study of classical mechanics so that I can take a more serious dig into my electronics texts; specifically, I'd like a better foundation for concepts such as work, energy, etc. I've gone through this forum & have bookmarked previous posts asking about self-study & will be reviewing those; I've also bookmarked & have begun reading about a half-dozen articles in the "Insights" section pertaining to self-study.

    Now for my question: It seems to me that if I were to really be very careful about it, I would need to devote a rather serious length of time to revisiting high school math, plus catching up in some areas I didn't study, e.g. trig, before I could even begin to contemplate taking on classical mechanics at let us say a high school physics level. Yet I am pretty sure that at both the high school & freshman college level, a strictly serial approach is not how it's done; somehow things are managed so as to have students study both subjects together. At my age (59), with my other responsibilities, I don't have as much time as would a full-time student; but I'd still like to know if there is some way to arrange my study such that I could lead off with the math, give it a decent head start, and then at a certain point arrange to begin at least some classical mechanics topics. Opinions & advice welcome, whether pro or con.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2016 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I followed a similar approach many years before, in order to boost math and self - study physics - I have formally undergrad CS education. What is needed in my opinion is Calculus (solve many problems especially in II and III), Linear Algebra (as far as you can get provided you spent really good efforts) and personally I got in more abstract topics like Functional Analysis, Complex Analysis to name a few, just because I like math. Also, after high school, I graduated a two years technical school in Electronics, but the theoretical knowledge was not too deep and the math a little higher than high school (mostly professional education dealing with lots of practical aspects). Through my self study in math and physics afterwards, I can tell that I have a much better grasping of the concepts, even though this is not my main job. So, math is what you need and you can do it in parallel with some study of physics, as the time you have to spare permits. It may take you a long time if you don't have much time to spend but you can do it, if you really like it.
  4. Dec 12, 2016 #3
    Thanks, @QuantumQuest.

    I did some further Googling and looks like the answer to my question about high school physics specifically is fairly simple: all that's typically required for most high schools, it seems, is basic algebra and trig; some deriving of simple functions from graphed data; scientific notation, rounding, significant figures; and vector addition in 2 dimensions.

    Since I already do know basic algebra (but am reviewing it), and have done some graphing of functions fairly recently as part of my self-taught electronics curriculum, then all I'd really need math-wise would be a fairly intensive but minimalist exposure to trig, plus the other fairly brief but important topics above. Quite doable w/ a few months hard work, I should think. An appropriate physics text might be. the lighter of the two Crowell books, "Light and Matter".
  5. Dec 12, 2016 #4
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted