# Should I take Calc 3 before Physics 2?

I've heard several people mention that physics 2 uses a lot of material covered in calc 3 (multivariable I believe would be its equivalent).
The physics 2 course at my college covers Coulomb's Law, electric fields and potentials, capacitance, currents and circuit, Ampere's Law, Faraday's Law, inductance, Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves, ray optics, interference, and diffraction according to the catalog.
I'm not positive if this is where this type of post goes so if it belongs somewhere else, please let me know.

jtbell
Mentor
What does your college's web site or catalog list as the official pre-requisites and/or co-requisites for physics 2?

What does your college's web site or catalog list as the official pre-requisites and/or co-requisites for physics 2?
It only specifies calculus 2 as the prerequisite on the website.
I had heard from some that a lot of calc 3 subjects show up in the class and they said it was better to take calc 3 first as a result.
I've been having a difficult time with physics 1 so I wasn't sure if I should go ahead and take calc 3 first to try and be better prepared for physics 2 or not.

verty
Homework Helper
That sounds like a good idea, MisterAvocadoMan. That way, you can focus on the physics without also trying to understand the math. After all, calc 3 is a very difficult subject, IMHO. Normally I wouldn't suggest it but since you have been struggling in physics 1, I think it is a good idea.

jtbell
Mentor
Physics 2 will introduce some Calculus-3 level concepts (most notably surface, line and volume integrals) in a way that doesn't assume that you've already had Calculus 3. Furthermore, the examples and exercises that use those concepts will be simple enough that you can calculate answers without using the general techniques that you will study in Calculus 3. Basically, they'll be simple enough that you can do the calculus part "by inspection" without doing any "real calculus."

If you're going to take Calculus 3 before Physics 2 anyway, it would probably help a little, but most of the material in Calculus 3 will be way above the level needed for Physics 2. I certainly wouldn't postpone Physics 2 just so you can take Calculus 3 beforehand.

gleem and PhanthomJay
verty
Homework Helper
Okay, two different views. You'll have to decide which to take. I don't know that much about physics tuition so take that into account.

Physics 2 will introduce some Calculus-3 level concepts (most notably surface, line and volume integrals) in a way that doesn't assume that you've already had Calculus 3. Furthermore, the examples and exercises that use those concepts will be simple enough that you can calculate answers without using the general techniques that you will study in Calculus 3. Basically, they'll be simple enough that you can do the calculus part "by inspection" without doing any "real calculus."

If you're going to take Calculus 3 before Physics 2 anyway, it would probably help a little, but most of the material in Calculus 3 will be way above the level needed for Physics 2. I certainly wouldn't postpone Physics 2 just so you can take Calculus 3 beforehand.
That seems fair, that's pretty much what I was looking to find out. I've heard physics 2 is supposedly much more difficult then 1 so I just wanted to get an idea of if it'd be better or not.

That sounds like a good idea, MisterAvocadoMan. That way, you can focus on the physics without also trying to understand the math. After all, calc 3 is a very difficult subject, IMHO. Normally I wouldn't suggest it but since you have been struggling in physics 1, I think it is a good idea.
That's why I was thinking this way also. I'm not doing terrible so far, but nothing's really come easy to me this term and I'm worried I'll just be totally lost with figuring out the more advanced topics and unfamiliar math.

I'll have to just weigh which one works better for my schedule then, I know I'd like to knock out Physics 2 over spring so I may go about doing that.
Thank you both for your advice, I appreciate the guidance a lot.

jtbell
Mentor
Another factor to consider... if you take a semester (or two) break between Physics 1 and Physics 2, you'll lose some momentum (figuratively, not literally! ) and will probably have to make some effort to get back up to speed when you start again.

Another factor to consider... if you take a semester (or two) break between Physics 1 and Physics 2, you'll lose some momentum (figuratively, not literally! ) and will probably have to make some effort to get back up to speed when you start again.
That's a good point.

symbolipoint
Homework Helper
Gold Member
removed some other stuff and then,...

If you're going to take Calculus 3 before Physics 2 anyway, it would probably help a little, but most of the material in Calculus 3 will be way above the level needed for Physics 2. I certainly wouldn't postpone Physics 2 just so you can take Calculus 3 beforehand.
I would.

I've heard several people mention that physics 2 uses a lot of material covered in calc 3 (multivariable I believe would be its equivalent).
The physics 2 course at my college covers Coulomb's Law, electric fields and potentials, capacitance, currents and circuit, Ampere's Law, Faraday's Law, inductance, Maxwell's equations, electromagnetic waves, ray optics, interference, and diffraction according to the catalog.
I'm not positive if this is where this type of post goes so if it belongs somewhere else, please let me know.
Different universities will offer physics 2 at different levels. Mine happens to offer two lower-division courses for E&M: The advanced introduction requires current enrollment in or completion of (ordinary) differential equations, and lists completion of calc 3 as a prerequisite. The basic introduction requires calc 3 as a corequisite. (Undergraduate programs overall will vary quite a bit in the way they choose to distribute material between the introductory and the upper-division E&M courses.)

A basic course, for example, will generally only apply Gauss' Law or Ampere's Law in cases where symmetry conditions are convenient enough to reduce integrals to a mere algebra problem. In general, you will probably only scratch the surface of Maxwell's equations, and won't use much of the formalism of vector calculus, particularly with solving the Laplace/Poisson equations.

The course also might go for a hand-wavy segue from EM waves to ray optics and to physical optics. (After you take the course, if you don't cover the transition between those topics, some things to consider for further reading are Maxwell's equations in materials, the eikonal equation, and Fresnel diffraction integrals.)

I don't know about your specific university, but if it doesn't require calc 3 as a prerequisite, I'd say you should be fine to take it concurrently. A decent physics professor should be able to introduce the mathematical techniques necessary for a basic introduction to the topic.