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When to take high school physics?

  1. Dec 11, 2007 #1
    Hi, I just fininshed Algebra I and I am about to start algebra II
    I plan to be a physcis professer one day, so when do I start taking some sort of high school physics?
    I would like to take some now but I do not know if I have enough math yet.
    Can anyone help? Thanks!!
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 11, 2007 #2


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    It depends on your school. Check your curriculum... and any possible pre-requisites.

    In most places in the US, physics comes later [in the junior or senior year] after biology and chemistry, if it is offered at all. If you are fortunate, your school might be trying the "physics first" approach (http://www.aapt.org/Policy/physicsfirst.cfm).
  4. Dec 12, 2007 #3
    I'm surprised you have a choice. In my high school, non-calculus physics was required for freshmen, and AP physics was optional for seniors only.

    For non-calculus physics, you should be fine with an algebra background. For calculus-based physics, you'll need knowledge of basic calculus.
  5. Dec 12, 2007 #4
    Geometry and trig never hurt, but I don't remember doing anything besides algebra in my physics class in high school. Of course, I'm in the US, so we spent over a week on Aristotle and then the teacher said "Yeah, everything he said was wrong."

    Would it have been so hard to just teach me what was correct right from the beginning?
  6. Dec 12, 2007 #5


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    That's a [pseudo-]historical approach... which has some value.

    At the other extreme, one could skip Newton's Laws and jump straight to relativity and/or quantum mechanics... which are arguably more "correct".... however, the typical student would probably have trouble with this approach [at least the way it is currently taught now].

    I do sympathize with your comment, however.
  7. Dec 12, 2007 #6
    Sorry, mabey I should have said this, but I am homeschooled.
    So I kind of have a choice!
  8. Dec 12, 2007 #7


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    As Poop-Loops noted, a "normal" (non-AP) high school physics course probably doesn't use any trigonometry. It's been a long time since I took mine so I can't remember, myself, and things may have changed since then anyway. However, if you wait until you've studied a bit of trigonometry (at least the basic stuff about sines, cosines and tangents), you can use an "algebra/trig-based" introductory college physics book such as Giancoli or Serway/Faughn. There are also calculus-based books such as Tipler/Mosca and Halliday/Resnick/Walker or Halliday/Resnick/Krane, but if you do go into physics in college, you'll probably use one of those books anyway in your freshman year.
  9. Dec 12, 2007 #8
    If you're home schooled, that changes everything. You can actually learn something. Giancolli is a very easy, yet comprehensive text book for physics. The problems are tricky algebraically sometimes and even use some trig if I remember. I think there's some calculus sprinkled around, too. It gives you a nice conceptual idea of physics and gives you some basic math practice, though. I don't remember there being any derivations, so that might come as a shock when you hit any higher level physics.

    Newton's laws are an approximation. Aristotle's laws are a fabrication. :(
  10. Dec 12, 2007 #9


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    It's easy to say that now.
    It might be best to say that those were their best formulations based on what data and methods [however limited and imperfect] they had at the time. They had some [even if only roughly] predictive power.
  11. Dec 12, 2007 #10
    Exactly. So I don't see why we would give them any credence in a physics class. History of science, or a tid bit or something, but we spent a week on them.

    The fact that we had to was appalling in the first place, since it was in 12th grade, when I was 17. So many years of science and we didn't know of Aristotle (I did, I'm awesome like that)?
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