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Schools Taking First-year University Physics w/o Grade 12 Algebra?

  1. Aug 26, 2012 #1
    Hey everyone,

    I'm a philosophy major hoping to pick up physics as a minor. However, I do not have the grade 12 maths from high school (I goofed off a lot :)). I was wondering if first-year university physics is doable without the knowledge of the algebraic equations and applications?

    I consider myself at least moderately good at mathematics, but I've never taken a physics course before, so I am not sure of what to expect when going to class. Also, I will be taking a first year calculus course that has an extra hour of lecture per week developing pre-calculus skills, so as the semester goes on, I will be gaining the knowledge; it's the first part of the semester that concerns me (I wouldn't want to be left behind!).

    Thanks. :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2012 #2
    If you can't do algebra then a physics class will be pretty pointless. Same for a calculus class. So it depends on how well you know algerba without having taken the algebra class you mention.
  4. Aug 26, 2012 #3
    You will need to know vectors and without having at least a pre-calculus class that topic will probably seem very strange/new to you. Not that you don't have the ability to do physics, but you just simply haven't been formally introduced to some of the mathematical tools necessary for a good understanding of classical mechanics.

    I would wait to take physics until I had taken at least pre-calc. I'm surprised your university doesn't require calculus as a co-requisite (unless the class you are looking at is just a "survey" class).
  5. Aug 26, 2012 #4


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    At least where I'm from, algebra is begun way before grade 12, so depending on what you are actually missing, you might be fine. If you have the ability to manipulate an equation to solve for one variable in terms of the other variables that are present, that will go a long way.

    There are non-calculus based first year physics courses for life science majors etc, and I assume that you'll be taking a course like that. However, I feel compelled to point out (just so you are aware), that taking physics without calculus misses the core of the subject. Newton invented calculus because he needed it to describe nature. In the algebra-only first year mechanics (laws of motion) courses, you are sort of limited to memorizing the fundamental equations and plugging numbers into them. With calculus, one can derive these equations from first principles ie understand where everything comes from.

    I'm not saying that you should take the calculus-based physics course designed for majors. I just thought I would give you a little heads up that it is essential to a true understanding of the subject, so that maybe one day you can delve into that.
  6. Aug 26, 2012 #5
    Thanks for the input, everyone. I took a look at the course offerings, and I should be able to get away with taking calculus this fall and winter and take first year physics next year.

    The way the courses are, I am able to fulfil a minor in two years of study (most take about 3 years to do).

  7. Aug 26, 2012 #6
    I'm taking calculus 1 and university physics right now, and its somewhat difficult. The first lecture I just couldn't keep up with the math. So I've just been cramming in how to do derivatives and integrals.
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