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Trouble with physics and maths

  1. Jul 23, 2014 #1
    Hello, i'm studying 11th grade in an european country that I will not specify for the second year. English is not my main language, so there will probably be many orthographic mistakes, but I hope the text will be understandable.

    From 7th to 8th grade I had good grades in maths effortless, but I must say that I couldn't understand some things without a familiar's help. I even scored near the 95th percentile on the Math and Science parts of the PISA test for the country I live in.
    But when I passed to 9th grade I hardly got a 6 in maths (guess I was putting effort, but maybe not enough), this contrasts with previously obtained results. All this went worst on 10th grade, when I just couldn't understand almost nothing on maths and failed to pass the subject. My grades brought down in most subjects because I was studying very little. With respect to physics and chemistry (we study it as a single subject), I could study a day before or even 30 minutes before and approve but I acquired a really poor base.

    When I passed to 11th grade I just was completely lost on the subjects I talk about and I got depressed for that and other things that were happening in my life. Finally I repeated the course because I suspended to many subjects. This year I failed those subjects again.

    The last three years I have had anxiety when studying mainly maths and physics, and I just can't stand it. Now I really want to understand those subjects (I wasn't interested before), but I don't know what is my problem, something is just going totally wrong. I don't know if we have bad books, a bad teacher (most of us can't frequently understand what he's explaining), if I don't put enough effort (that is sure, but I don't think it's the only, or at least, the main problem), if I don't study in the way I'm supposed/expected to study those subjects, If i'm just not enough intelligent for it, or a combination of many of those factors.

    I need to say that there are exams of those subjects that suspend most than 75 percent of my classmates, this leads me to think that the problem might not be exclusively or even mostly mine/our. I think I'm quite good at reasoning and argumentation, what is very important at math and physics, but I fail to understand it. For example, I don't understand such things as why N m2 kg−2 in G=6.674×10−11 N m2 kg−2. Or even why Newton's law of universal gravitation is how it is. Maybe I'm trying to understand it too deeply for my level, but I just can't stand memorizing equations without really understanding why they are how they are and what they mean. I think also that I study too slowly because sometimes I need 1 hour per page. I just try too analyze everything I read and there are too many concepts and too many relations among them and hardly can "play" with them.
    Other important problem is that I would like to study a degree related to those subjects and my results really discourage me.

    What do you think about all this things that I have exposed? what is the problem? what should I do? Thanks.
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2014 #2


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    You should really look into getting tutor, one that can sit down with you and walk you through things at your pace. Obviously your English understanding may also prove a barrier to understanding texts and lectures, so you should work on that if you feel you're having problems understanding in class. It can be very difficult for non-native speakers to pick up on some of the subtleties that might occur during lecture.

    There’s no quick fix, but don’t become discouraged. Try your best, seek tutorship and rest easy knowing you’ve done your best.
  4. Jul 24, 2014 #3
    Hello, Student100, thanks for the advices. I may have explained improperly. I'm living and studying in an non-englishspeaking european country with whose lenguage I have no problems.
  5. Jul 24, 2014 #4


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    Oh okay, I think I read that part wrong.

    Well then, I would just look into getting a tutor. :)
  6. Jul 24, 2014 #5


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    I think it's good that you have a desire to understand the material that you're taught rather than take it at face value and memorize it. That's an important attribute to have if you want to pursue any of the sciences.

    I suspect what you're struggling with is that a lot of new information is coming at you in a short time. In the past it has likely come at a slower rate, or a higher percentage of it is has been material that you were already familiar with, at least to some extent. Now you sit down for a lecture and the instructor had to draw on a lot of concepts that are new. In order to cover the curriculum the instructor doesn't have the time to let you digest the material on the way down.

    One thing that can help with this is to read ahead. If you have a course syllabus (a list of the material that the course will cover), use at least part of your study time to read about what will be covered in lectures that are coming up. If you don't have a syllabus, talk to your instructor. Even taking a few minutes to familiarize yourself with basic concepts and establish context can really help to alleviate confusion, and can enable you to keep up and ask intelligent questions.

    Another tip particular to physics and mathematics is to focus on problem-solving activities. Most often you are evaluated by solving problems, so working your way through example problems on your own can help you to develop the understanding and skills that you need to tackle problems that you haven't yet faced.

    Personally I think another big tip is to spend time thinking about the material outside of the context of the course. Come up with your own questions and try to answer them.
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