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Teaching myself calculus?

  1. Oct 6, 2012 #1
    I really want to learn more advanced physics, but I obviously need to know calculus. Would it suffice to watch all the Khan Academy videos on precalculus and calculus? I'm also going to read Calculus Made Easy by Thompson. Can anyone recommend other resources I could use?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 6, 2012 #2


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    I can't say if watching Khan Academy (KA) would suffice, but perhaps on some level. From what I hear you'll learn a lot of the techniqus needed ( ie you'll learn derivatives, integrals, and common application), but i'm not entirely sure how much depth you really get. However, if you're mostlying looking to first learn techniques to help solve physic problems or at least get an initial understanding, then it should suffice.

    If you find that you want more logic and more rigor and motivation that requires greater thought, I tend to recommend Courant's Calculus book. I don't expect you to be able to solve these problems, but I found the book to be well motivated and helps you learn how to think about problems. It isn't a simple read the text, find an example, and then apply to problem set book. You'll be required to recall information you have learnt once and apply it without being told to do so.

    Also Calculus made easy, by thompson is a decent book, outdated on some issues and might lead to confusion in later visit of calculus, but I don't foresee it being a great problem.
  4. Oct 7, 2012 #3
    Calculus by Michael Spivak is really, really good if you want a thorough understanding of the concepts. The problems are all useful and challenging, and you learn a lot more than calculus in the process.

    However, I've heard it's quite hard compared to other calculus books, and you won't like it if you just want to apply calculus (like you might for Physics).
  5. Oct 7, 2012 #4
    Spivak would definitely be an overkill if he doesn't want the rigor.

    Plus he need's the maturity before attempting it.
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2012
  6. Oct 7, 2012 #5


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    Thompson is great. Khan Academy is lame; it doesn't teach ideas, just operations.
  7. Oct 7, 2012 #6
    Yes, I remember reading it as an intro to calculus awhile back. It definitely helps you with the intuition on some of the ideas.
  8. Oct 7, 2012 #7
    I do want a thorough understanding of calculus, not just the operations. I'm not just learning it for physics, I also love math. I'll check out all the recommended books. Thanks to everyone who posted, you were really helpful.
  9. Oct 7, 2012 #8
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  10. Oct 7, 2012 #9
    I thought he learned it from Calculus Made Easy. In his book QED (great book, by the way, just in case you haven't read it) it says that he was first inspired to learn calculus from a book that started with "What one fool can do, another can", which is Calculus Made Easy.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  11. Oct 7, 2012 #10
    He also used the one above. I remember reading about it and something having to do with his teachers.
  12. Oct 8, 2012 #11
    I also think Spivak is great, but Courant is probably unsurpassed for someone interested in physics who also wants a deep treatment of calculus.
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