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Studying What mathematics do I need to study before I enter undergrad

  1. Oct 28, 2017 #1

    I’m 21 years old and recently got accepted to start a bachelor of science degree in physics. This will be starting next February.

    I had left school at 17 due serious health issues so since school I’ve worked and also travelled to multiple countries, which for me was amazing.

    In school I never cared for maths nor tried a lot because I (at the time) thought I wouldn’t need such an extensive mathematic mind for the future (stupid I know). Overtime I discovered my passion for space and the more and more I went in-depth with understanding (from self study) I knew I wanted to study this in university and hopefully become a career someday.

    Now I have about 4 months before I start university but unfortunately my mathematics isn’t the best. My leave right now is problably algebra (I know shocking).

    I’m sure you have heard this before but I am extremely willing to put in copious amounts of study and effort to learn appropriate material before i start studying. I’m just a bit lost as to what and how I should begin studying.
    I know I will need a refreshment of algebra, trig, geometry, calculus. I will be getting a tutor so should I ask them to help me in what order to study first and for how long, because I only have 4 months to get the best knowledge I can.

    These are some of the questions I hope you can answer:

    - Please List the subject in order of what I should study?
    - When will I know to move to the next subject?
    - How long should I stay on one subject?
    - Should I study intro physics before i start an undergrad physics course or will strong maths help me understand?
    - Please suggest some textbooks for me

    Should I study physics alongside studying the math or would that be somewhat pointless?

    Anyway enough rambling and I hope this all makes sense because I’m writing this crammed up against a pole on the train so I’m trying to do it fairly quickly.

    I appreciate all your help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 28, 2017 #2


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    I'd recommend getting with an advisor at your college and having them help you set up an academic plan listing which courses you'll be taking and when. This includes math classes and meeting with them should help you figure out where to start. For example, if you're going to be taking college algebra, there's little need in trying to tackle trig and geometry right now since you won't be taking those classes yet.

    You can also look and see which textbooks the math classes are currently using and should be able to find a used/older edition of these textbooks for very little cost.

    If you are not confident in your basic math skills, I'd focus there and leave physics to learn later. But it's really up to you. If you're progressing in your math studies and want to try tackling some basic physics problems, feel free. You should know very quickly if you're in over your head or not.
  4. Oct 29, 2017 #3
    I'm in the same boat as you. I've started from the bottom and I'm building my math skills up to best prepare me for my physics classes. This may actually be easier than you think, and by that I mean you don't have as many options as you think you do. For example, at my university, you can't even declare your major to Physics until you're in Calculus I. You cant take ANY Physics classes until you're in Calculus II. So you would be required to take all the necessary prerequisite math courses which would be College Algebra, Trigonometry, and of course any classes before that. So you're basically forced into a certain math level. At my university, this is initially determined by the ALEKS placement exam. It takes out all the guesswork. I'd see if your school offers this.
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