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Whats the diff between calc based and algerbra

  1. Jan 7, 2013 #1
    Ok, so i just finished my first semester ever of calculus. I have never ever made it this far in math in my life period. im way excited. But im still new to calc and not sure what everything means or is. Physics 1 at my school is what they call calc based. I dont understand what they mean. apparently there is a algerbra based physics as well.

    isnt physics physics? i mean i know that f=ma. but how does that involve calc? basically im looking for a single problem that can be solved algebraically and or with calc so i can see the difference. if that makes sense.

    i know that freq=1/tone and via basic math tone=1/freq but who did we get those basic equations? is that where the calc comes in?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 8, 2013 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    An algebra based physics is just that there is no calculus; all problems can be solved using algebra. Trigonometry would also come into play in algebra based physics too.

    Calculus based physics can get deeper into physics concepts where now you can derive the formulas that are only stated and used in a algebra physics course. Calculus gives you some powerful methods to solve more real world physics problems.
  4. Jan 8, 2013 #3
    Calculus is when 'division' is not actually 'division' :).
  5. Jan 8, 2013 #4
  6. Jan 8, 2013 #5
    Leibniz notation, I assume. Still doesn't make much sense in the context of the thread, though.
  7. Jan 8, 2013 #6


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    Staff: Mentor

    Calculus based physics derives Newton's equations of motion from each other using calculus. Algebraic physics would likely just ignore that.
  8. Jan 8, 2013 #7


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    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Simple answer.

    Algebra based Physics: Given some random facts that are taken at face value, solve some simple physics problems.

    Calculus based Physics: Given some general laws of physics, realize the random facts aren't random, at all; that there's a very good reason those formulas can't help but be true.

    Algebra based: Learn Kepler's 2nd Law and Kepler's 3rd Law.
    Calculus based: It's the same damn law, dammit!
    (Okay, actually it doesn't take calculus to realize the latter, but the difference between algebra based physics classes and calculus based physics classes is usually a lot more than just using calculus once in a while in a calculus based class. It's just a lot more in depth.)
  9. Jan 8, 2013 #8


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    Science Advisor

    I recommend taking calculus based physics. Anything else is just watered down.
  10. Jan 8, 2013 #9
    ok, let me see if i get this right. basically calc based physics is where i find out how to get to the algerbra based physics such as f=ma? so i derive and use what i just learned to get to the basic algerbra equations?

    i think the hardest part of calculus for me was optimization and finding the position function based on the derivative (velocity) so basically going backwards. However, integration was fun and not to bad at all. U substitution is pretty cool.
  11. Jan 9, 2013 #10


    Staff: Mentor

    No its more like starting with F=ma applying it to a problem by setting up the appropriate calculus integral with applicable constraints along the way and then solving and reducing it to one of the algebra based equations that you then solve to get the answer.

    An example of a constraint is the string of a pendulum constrains the bob to moving along a circular arc or the inclined plane constrains the object to fall along the incline...
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