Should I take Cal I before taking physics?

  • Thread starter Tokage
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  • #1
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Hi, I'm going to be a college junior (technically more like a freshman or sophomore because of my credits) this coming fall and just recently declared becoming a physics major which will take effect at that time. It's been quite a while since I've done math, and I'm really not to great at it, but I absolutely love physics and astronomy, which is what my department and I do much better at the math when applying it to physics rather than math by itself. Regardless, I think I can handle the math courses I'll be required to take with lots of hard work which I intend to put it. Like I said though its been a while since I've taken a math course, over two years actually. I wasn't require to take one my senior year of high school nor did I take one my freshman or sophomore years of college. So this summer I will be taking precalculus with trigonometry. In the fall however I have a choice, my school allows me to either take Calculus I beforehand or simultaneously with Physics I.

Would it be wise for me to take the precal with trig this summer then take Calculus I by itself in the fall and then Physics I in the Spring so that I am able to reestablish a good base of math for myself because it's been so long and I'm not extremely skilled in it? Or would I be fine taking Physics I and Calculus I at the same time in the fall? I'm afraid that I may be kicking myself for taking them simultaneously if concepts are being covered in Physics I that require things I am still trying to learn or have yet to get to in my Calculus I class.


Just for clarity, here are the links to all three classes that describe what will be covered so that you may see whether or not there may be a problem:


Pre-cal with trig (irrelevant really, taking either way):
https://wwwb.is.tcu.edu/classsearch/showsyl.aspx?Syl=MATH100540024115


Calculus I: https://wwwb.is.tcu.edu/classsearch/showsyl.aspx?Syl=MATH105240604117


Physics I: https://wwwb.is.tcu.edu/classsearch/showsyl.aspx?Syl=PHYS204740104117


EDIT: I'm now noticing that the Physics I class has the option of "instructor approval", so a third option would be to take physics first and then Cal I in the Spring. Might that also be a possible option? Just throwing it out there.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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Well in my class we really didnt use calculus all that much. The equations and such were all stated using calculus but most thing simplified to basic algebra with zero work (constants).

However I can't imagine understanding anything without knowing what a derivative and an integral is. But since they expect you to take in concurrently then there shouldn't be any problems.

So really I'd expect most of the math used in that class to be from that precalculus class.

So overall its probably a bit better to take calculus before but I dont think setting yourself back a semester in physics is worth that little bit.



Thats taken from my experience, where calculus II is the one we take concurrently with physics I. I would talk to an adviser or the professor teaching it to find out specifics.
 
  • #3
mathwonk
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i think you should take precalc and calc first, yes.
 
  • #4
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Do you know or will have learned by then how to do (simple) integration and derivatives? Then, if your course is anything like mine was, I don't think it's necessary to take Calculus I prior to Physics I. Having said that, I don't know anything about your preparation from high school (I think it is assumed you have in fact learnt derivatives and integration there), so it's hard to gauge, but you might want to check what the usual sequence at your university is. If people are supposed to be taking those two courses concurrently, then I'm pretty sure Physics I is tailored so that it doesn't really use much of the stuff that hasn't yet been taught in the Calculus I course.
 
  • #5
Clearly take precalc first, but I think taking calc and physics simultaneously is very doable. But remember, this is college. You have to be responsible for your own education. In physics I, you will be doing derivatives and integrals within your first few weeks. But don't worry, the derivatives and integrals you'll do in physics I are very basic. All you really need to do is view some of the Khan Academy videos on derivatives and integrals, practice doing a few if possible, and then you'll be fine. It's best that you understand the power rule for derivatives, the product rule for derivatives, and the fundamental theorem of calculus. They're incredibly easy-to-grasp subjects on both a geometric and analytic level. The difficulty in calculus lies in all the ways to differentiate or integrate difficult functions -- none of which you'll encounter in intro physics.
 
  • #6
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Why not sign up for both courses, show up the first few days. Talk to your instructor about the class and if it looks like calc will be essential, drop it in the first few days.

(Assuming you have no penalty for that)
 

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