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What should I learn on my own?

  1. Nov 11, 2011 #1

    I am in pre-calc right now and will be taking calculus 1 and an intro to physics class next semester. My question is what do you guys think I should know before I enter my physics class? Any formulas, concepts, anything that needs to be memorized? I can just start on it now.

    Any books that should be read as well?

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 12, 2011 #2
    Well I assume your physics class will start assuming you know nothing so you won't really NEED to know anything, however if you're interested in physics try looking up definitions of forces and try to get your head around newton's laws; the best advice I can give is to try and understand physics rather than memorize it.
  4. Nov 12, 2011 #3
    During (or before) Precalc, I taught myself the essentials of the limit and learned about derivatives (along with differentiation techniques). Learning about derivatives will help you a lot for your Intro to Physics class, especially when it comes to velocity and acceleration (you will have a better understanding of them with the knowledge of what derivatives are).

    For Calculus, I would suggest you get a copy of James Stewart Calculus. If you want video lectures (like how I taught myself), I would go to MIT OpenCourseWare.

    Link: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/mathematics/18-01-single-variable-calculus-fall-2006/

    They also have some for Physics. Walter Lewin is a great Physics professor! Check him out.

    Link: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/physics/8-01-physics-i-classical-mechanics-fall-1999/

    Also another great site for self-learning is KhanAcademy.

  5. Nov 12, 2011 #4
    Nice, thanks for the sites and tips. I know i don't NEED to know it, but I like learning about this stuff. I have been studying some calculus on the side, like the derivatives and limits and whatnot and I'll try getting into the physics ideas and concepts.
  6. Nov 12, 2011 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    For physics, you should know the basic trig function definitions by heart. You should be able to look at a right triangle with an angle and two sides marked off, and think instantly, "sine", "cosine", or "tangent".

    You should be able to solve an equation using only symbolic algebra without plugging in any numbers. That is, if you're given something like

    [tex]s = \frac{1}{2} at^2[/tex]

    you should be able to solve it for t by first rearranging it to

    [tex]t = \sqrt{\frac{2s}{a}}[/tex]

    and then plugging in numbers for s and a and calculating the answer completely in your calculator. Don't plug in the numbers first, and then do a lot of arithmetic while rearranging the equation. Practice it so it's faster and more natural for you to do it the first way than the second.
  7. Nov 12, 2011 #6
    Hmm that is good to know. I'll try solving practice equations without plugging in numbers first.

    Also, this might not be the correct place to ask but no need to make a whole new thread.

    [question moved]
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 12, 2011
  8. Nov 12, 2011 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    If you're changing the subject significantly, it's better to start a new thread, especially if it's more on topic for a different forum. I moved your question to the General Math forum:

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