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!

Solving math problems

  1. Jul 29, 2009 #1
    I am a college freshman and have taken Calculus I,II,III (covering derivatives, integrals, series and vectors) while going over my book during the summer I tried doing several problems from random chapters. Most of which were application or physics related. Most of these I was not able to solve. But while doing problems relating to the section or on the concept I have no problem and I remember how to do all of them and I'm very confident in all of the material.

    So my question is how important are those types of problems (the physics type). In my opinion the reason I am not able to solve them is because of the lack of other knowledge (like physics) and not mathematical.
    Thank You,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 30, 2009 #2
    I have two opinions on this, as it comes up quite regularly. The first is that most of us struggle with doing problems that aren't assigned for homework or didn't cover in class. We are basically trained to do problems with the pressure that they're due for homework or we'll be tested over them. Also, the calculus sequences are often taught in a very standard, sequential way and don't branch out to actually explain things. They just teach us to solve certain problems and that's it. That's why we struggle with the word and application problems. The key to solving physics problems or word problems is to write down the relevant information, i.e. what the constants are, equations, relationships, etc.

    My second opinion is that a lot of the applications or physics type problems I've seen in calculus textbooks are poorly worded. They don't give you enough information and expect certain assumptions that they don't always state. This makes those problems difficult, as there is usually some simple hang up.

    In the end, don't sweat it too much. Try them again after re-reading some the preceding material. If you want to make sure you understand certain material, applications, or relevant physics, try finding a book that actually explains and teaches that material. This would be a better use of your time than wasting it on the usual calculus bricks.
  4. Jul 30, 2009 #3


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Your Calculus textbook is not a Physic textbook, and so, if you not yet studied the relevant Physics, you could be confused about just how to translate the Calculus worded textbook exercise into the relevant mathematical symbolism and then solve the problem. This becomes far simpler and easier to handle after you study the relevant Physics.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook