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Understanding Physics

  1. Oct 22, 2009 #1
    So I am in an intro college physics course, but it is not my cup of tea. The class goes like so, we get lectures, we get reading assignments, we get problem sets. And repeat that for every chapter.

    I have a problem with understanding the physics. Yes, that's a little vague, let me explain. I do the reading, sometimes even three times. I work out the examples they give in the books. But when It comes to the problem sets and new types of problems, I freeze and it's like I have not even read the chapter. I can obviously answer the questions that just require you to plug in numbers into an equation but the ones where you kind of have to apply the concept and combine some equations always eludes me. This is very frustrating and depressing at the same time. No matter how many times I read, and really try to understand it, it just doesn't stick. By the way, I failed my first exam but got a perfect result on the problem set.

    Any tips on how to deal with this - I really don't want to drop the course, it's very interesting- I just can't seem to master it or get a grasp of it.

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2009 #2
  4. Oct 22, 2009 #3


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    What twofish-quant says can occur after studying the material over two years or more; you need to be willing to repeat what you have studied if you hope to see some of the exercises as being like the same thing but different values. I have been doing this with Rational Equation Applications from Introductory and Intermediate Algebra and I now finally recognize similar forms of these exercises. What is found are many of the same general problems but using different values.

    Want To Learn, you described very well how you need to study, so just continue doing that. You are learning to think critically, set up sets of equations, and solve for unknown values. You most likely did not do this to such an extent in other courses.
  5. Oct 23, 2009 #4
    I guess in the end it just comes down to practice and recognizing the different types of problems. What still frustrates me is the readings. When I read the text for the first time, after I am done, it feels like I have not read anything, and much of what I have read I forgot, so that is like a waste of an hour which I can't afford.

    How do you guys approach the readings? DO you take notes - that would be superfluous I think because there is so much info that you would be copying down the whole book. Any tips for approaching readings?

    Much appreciated.
  6. Oct 23, 2009 #5
    Try doing the examples in the book as you read and before you read the solutions. This goes along way towards learning the material.
  7. Oct 23, 2009 #6


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    One way to practice is to do a problem, then do it again tomorrow. Why? Because if you're having trouble you'll struggle over it and get a solution, but the solution comes in pieces and is not very well internalized. Do it again tomorrow, and you'll be much more comfortable doing the problem and will learn the method you're using a lot better.
  8. Oct 23, 2009 #7
    I hardly learn anything reading- it's probably one of the only worse methods of learning than lectures. I personally take notes, but not from textbooks.. I read my lecture notes in maybe 1/2 page intervals, cover it up and try to focus on the main concept, then summarise it in a couple of lines on another sheet. Repeat this over a few days for the course.

    The questions you are getting sound hard, but I remember some of the ones I got in my first year, they were intentionally monstrous because some students will spend an hour thinking about it- that hour is basically time dedicated to physics, and when you finally find the answer, you'll find yourself incredibly receptive to the method that was used, and probably never forget it (if you read it carefully and understand it).

    Also a lot of it comes down to confidence, which comes from a large amount of practice.
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