What math topics should one master for first year physics?

In summary, if you are planning to take a year-long physics sequence at college, it is recommended that you have a strong foundation in algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. This includes being proficient in algebraic manipulation and using SOHCAHTOA. Additionally, it is helpful to have some knowledge of vectors, as they are often used in physics problem solving. You can check out the website mathispower4u.com for a comprehensive review of all the necessary math topics for first year physics.
  • #1
astroman707
61
5
I’ll be taking the year long physics sequence at my college this fall and I want to know what specific math topics I should master, so that I can conquer my first year of physics. I’m planning to brush-up on any necessary topics from algebra, through precalc, and including calc 1. It’s an honors sequence, so I’m told it’s mostly problem solving and less concepts; I’m not sure if that makes a difference. Thanks!
 
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  • #2
Algebra, trig, calculus (mostly derivatives, but some integration), and vectors. Sometimes people are exposed to vectors for the first time in physics, but it's also a linear algebra thing. Mostly you will be adding/subtracting vectors, decomposing vectors in a coordinate system, finding the magnitude of a vector and its angle in a given coordinate system, etc.

You will be mostly prepared if you are at least an expert at algebra and trig. I can't tell how much time I've spent teaching algebraic manipulation and SOHCAHTOA (which is fine, I don't mind, but generally its material that people should already have learned).
 
  • #3
Check out this site mathispower4u.com. It covers all the math you’ll need from first year high school,to first year college ie calculus 1,2,3 Linear Algebra, and differential equations.
 

1. What specific math topics should I focus on for first year physics?

In order to succeed in first year physics, it is important to have a strong foundation in algebra, trigonometry, and basic calculus. Specifically, you should be comfortable with solving equations, manipulating variables, and graphing functions. It is also helpful to have a basic understanding of vectors and matrices.

2. How important is calculus for first year physics?

Calculus is a crucial math topic for first year physics. Many concepts in physics, such as motion, forces, and energy, are described using calculus. It is important to have a solid understanding of both differential and integral calculus in order to fully understand these concepts.

3. Do I need to know advanced math, like differential equations, for first year physics?

While it is not necessary to have a deep understanding of advanced math topics like differential equations for first year physics, it can be helpful. Some physics concepts, such as oscillations and waves, are described using differential equations. However, these topics are typically covered in later physics courses.

4. Can I still do well in first year physics if I struggle with math?

First year physics can be challenging for those who struggle with math, but it is still possible to do well. It is important to seek help from your instructor or a tutor if you are struggling with any math topics. Additionally, practicing and reviewing math concepts regularly can help improve your understanding and performance in physics.

5. Are there any specific math skills I should brush up on before starting first year physics?

Before starting first year physics, it is helpful to review basic algebra and trigonometry skills. You should also be comfortable with using scientific notation and converting between different units of measurement. Additionally, having a basic understanding of the fundamentals of calculus, such as limits and derivatives, can be beneficial.

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