# When is a textbook to difficult for you?

## How many questions can you not know how to do before you consider the book too hard?

0 vote(s)
0.0%

1 vote(s)
11.1%

1 vote(s)
11.1%

1 vote(s)
11.1%

0 vote(s)
0.0%

0 vote(s)
0.0%

5 vote(s)
55.6%

1 vote(s)
11.1%
1. Nov 9, 2007

### andytoh

When is a textbook too difficult for you?

I judge whether a textbook is the right level for me based on how many exercises I can solve from the book. So how many questions can you not know how to do from a textbook before you consider the book too difficult?

In other words, what is your value for n such that after trying the exercises in the first few chapters of a textbook you can't do n% of the questions will you close the book and decide to change to an easier textbook?

Last edited: Nov 10, 2007
2. Nov 9, 2007

### HallsofIvy

I don't see why "how many exercises I can solve" is particularly relevant. You are supposed to learn from the exercises. I would say that a book i just right for me if I can do most if not all of the exercises in the first chapter but none in the last chapters.

3. Nov 9, 2007

### andytoh

I thinks it's very relevant. If one knows all the definitions and theorems and thus has "learned" the material, but can't do half the questions at the end of each chapter (I'm assuming the chapters are studied in order), then I don't think the person understands them well enough to know how to apply them--in other words, the book is too advanced for him.

4. Nov 9, 2007

### JasonRox

It all depends.

The structure on how the exercises are done is important. You can read a question from another textbook and not be able to do it, but able to do the 2 questions before that question and then use what you learned to do the one you couldn't previously do.

I learn more out of problems I can't do and then get help for.

5. Nov 10, 2007

### Gib Z

If there was a "If I can't do all of the questions, it's ok. No book is too hard for me." I would have put that =D lol

Ok seriously now, I would say 30% of the questions, any more and I feel disheartened, because even if i do get help, it would take forever to get through the book.

6. Nov 10, 2007

### HallsofIvy

Perhaps I misunderstood your question! I don' see much point in going back AFTER I have studied a book and deciding whether it was too hard for me. I had assumed you were talking about a book you had not yet studied and were trying to decide if it were too hard before using the text.

7. Nov 10, 2007

### MathematicalPhysicist

how do you decide if a book is too hard for you before reading it?

8. Nov 10, 2007

### andytoh

Perhaps I should rephrase my question:

What is your value for n such that after trying the exercises in the first few chapters of a textbook you can't do n% of the questions will you close the book and decide to change to an easier textbook?

So the way I see it, if you can't do 50% of the questions in the first few chapters of the textbook, you are "failing" and so should go down to an easier level.

Last edited: Nov 10, 2007
9. Nov 10, 2007

### Count Iblis

The exercises are not so relevant for this question. What matters is if the theory is explained in a way that you can understand. If this is not the case, then there is no point in using that book. If it is explained ok, then you can read the book to learn something.

The exercises can be difficult or easy, that depends on the taste of the author. Good textbooks should have, i.m.o. a range of problems from not so difficult to extremely difficult ones. Bad textbooks will only have simple problems that can be easily solved when you understand the theory.

Take e.g. thermodynamics. Suppose we have covered all the usual topics, including the Maxwell relations. Then we can ask the standard questions that involve manipulatons with Maxwell relations that are very trivial. We can also ask the student to derive that cp/cv = the ratio of the isentropic and isothermal compressibilites without giving any hints. The student only has the worked out example of cp - cv in the book which is not very similar to this derivation.

From my teaching experience, I know that only half of the best students (we are talking about second year students here) who go on to get an A++ mark will be able to do this problem. Yet, this is a good exercise to do even if you fail to get the desired result. You learn a lot from all your manipulations with the partial derivatives and Maxwell relations.

If you only do the easy kooked up problems you don't get much of an insight into the real matter. If you go on to do physics research then you'll have to deal with real problems where there are no hints and where you don't even know if the problem has a solution at all.

10. Nov 10, 2007

### Count Iblis

And let's not forget that the reason why so many people say that physics and maths is difficult has a lot to do with the fact that in high school they are only given very simple problems that do not challenge the student at all.