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So interested in Physics/ComSci but can't make sense of math

  1. Apr 19, 2014 #1
    Well I guess I should say a brief summary of my distressing problem. I know math is important, and I know how the algorithm of mathematics is but can't make sense of it visually. Lets take for example fractions I know how to multiply or divide fractions abstractly, but when I am applying it to concrete problems it makes no sense. I don't how to picture dividing 1/2 by 1/4 but can do it abstractly. One thing is algebra, I know the laws of algebra and can solve numbers abstractly, but when it comes to concrete algebra it makes no sense. Please help me I really want physics and I would do anything to solve my problem. Or perhaps I can get an advice on the books that makes math sensible.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2014 #2
    Or should I not worry about thinking concretely, for example, in terms of a circle or a square, and thinking in terms of abstract mathematics is much more better?
  4. Apr 19, 2014 #3


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    A lot of understanding comes with practice in my experience. The higher you go with the mathematics, the less intuitive it will be (for most people anyway, there may be some exceptions). When you get used to using a particular tool, after a while, you understand more about it, and then occasionally you'll have one of those "ah-ha" moments and things will suddenly make sense. Other times, you'll think back over something that seems obvious and wonder why it ever wasn't, but won't be able to pinpoint any specific time where you made the transition.

    Another thing that really helps with understanding in my experience is to try to apply the material that you've covered in lectures to situations that you haven't encountered of covered in class - problems that you think up for yourself and problems that you have a particular interest in solving.
  5. Apr 19, 2014 #4
    The only thing that is compelling me in sticking to math is my love for physics and my interest in math, if only that transition you say will come sooner. I have no problem with practice, I just feel like I am stupid for not understanding fractions even though I'm in college now. I never really care about math and physics (I blame school for creating an impression that math and science is about memorization, and of course myself for not caring) not until I found out about the laws of quantum physics and general relativity to which is so interesting I can't explain the feeling of knowing more about them.
  6. Apr 20, 2014 #5
    Fractions can be confusing. I tutored many college students in fractions. Using pizza analogies and the like.

    If you want to develop a better intuition about it, hit up the word problems in your book. Students traditionally hate word problems because they are hard. Doing math within math alone using memorized rules is easy. Translating physical situations to math is hard. But that is where the power of physics lies, translating a physical situation into math, doing some calculations and then translating that math back into a physical situation. When I tutored freshman physics I would often suggest to the students to think of it that way. A class in physics is a class in word problems (often this is followed by a groan, lol) and the word problems in a math class are an intro into using math scientifically (rather than as a subject in its own right).
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