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Starting from scratch

  1. Feb 28, 2015 #1
    Hello all, firstly i would like to say thanks in advance for reading this thread and any advice given will be greatly appreciated. As you maybe guessed from the title i plan to learn physics and math pretty much from scratch and for the time being college/uni isn't an option. Here is a quick overview of my situation.

    I'm 24 years old living in the UK with a full time job(60 hours a week), I have just bought my first home,my partner and I have just had our first child, oh and I have recently fell in love with physics. At high school I fell in with the wrong crowd and my grades went down hill, i ended up leaving high school with a bunch of average GCSE grades and i have been in full time employment since.

    Due to the commitments above leaving full time work for full time education just isn't an option at the moment, so plan to start by redoing my GCSE math and physics at either night school or online college not sure yet. I also plan to do a lot of home study/self-teaching so any advice on books/papers etc to read would be great. Also could anyone advise on any sort of order to learn/study subjects in.

    Again, thanks for reading.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2015 #2
    What's your skill level in basic algebra/trig? If you're not comfortable with those, then focus on that for now. Once you're comfortable with those, then you can focus on starting to learn calculus and Newtonian physics.
  4. Feb 28, 2015 #3
    My skill lvl is very basic at the moment. I have worked through foundation math and basic arithmetic on khans academy and also GCSE textbooks. So I shall be advancing onto algebra very soon.

    Thank you very much for suggestions
  5. Feb 28, 2015 #4


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    Education Advisor

    As previously mentioned, developing your skills with algebra and trigonometry are the most important first step. You can't really do any kind of physics without at least this much.

    The typical ordering for learning math and physics is as follows


    Algebra I
    Algebra II
    College Algebra
    (college algebra and trigonometry are sometimes combined into "precalculus")
    Calculus I
    Calculus II
    Calculus III
    Differential Equations
    Linear Algebra

    This is the bare minimum math for a physics major.

    Physics - After completing College Algebra and Trigonometry

    University Physics I - Classical Mechanics
    University Physics II - Electricity and Magnetism
    University Physics III - Modern Physics (includes optics, waves/oscillations, thermal and statistical physics, atomic and nuclear physics, with a touch of quantum mechanics and particle physics

    Upper level physics
    Classical Mechanics (2 semesters)
    Electricity and Magnetism (2 semesters)
    Thermal and Statistical Physics (1 semester)
    Quantum Mechanics (2 semesters)
    Upper level physics labs (1-2 semesters)

    Exact sequencing and courses may vary from school to school, but this is the typical curriculum. Physics majors are also typically required to take general chemistry and introductory computer programming.
  6. Feb 28, 2015 #5
    Thank you very much for in depth reply, I'm sure this will be very useful. Could you possible recommend a good pre-calculus book. The stuff I'm reading at the moment are mainly revision guides which aren't brilliant.
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