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Where should I start?

  1. May 21, 2005 #1
    Hello all!

    I've been browsing this site for a bit now, and this is my first offical post. I've been looking around at quite a few math/physics forums lately and this one seemed to grab my attention. Sadly, my first post is a "help me" type.

    Baisically, I'm looking for a few pointers on where to get my self-education started gaining knowledge in math/physics. I was lured away right after high school by a fantastic job and now, I'm kicking myself for it. I don't "need" the knowledge, but I want it for my own pride.

    My main issue is time, It's impossible to get into regular classes (even nights).So, essentialy I want to teach myself, challenge credits, and then finally take whatever time off is needed to get my degree(s).

    The problem I ran into after I bought books on calculus/chemistry/physics was my basic knowledge is lacking/forgotten ( I've been out of H.S. for 14 years~). Everything seemed so intertwined, I did'nt know the best course of action, and the best way to approach it. It all seems easy enough, but I dont want to miss an important step somewhere.Do I hit Trig first...or algebra...limits...etc. etc?

    Anyone have any recommendations? And...Thank you in advance :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. May 21, 2005 #2


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    I am attempting almost the exact same thing you describe, namely self-learning math and physics in my mid-thirties. It sounds like you are starting from nearly the same place I did, so perhaps I can offer a few tips.

    If it really has been 14 years since you studied math, the first thing you should do is get yourself a copy of "Precalculus Mathematics in a Nutshell" by George F. Simmons. I picked up a copy for seven bucks at my local Barnes and Noble, and it's a gem: everything you need to know about geometry, algebra, and trigonometry in 120 short, sweet pages. You can review all of the material in this book in a week and it will put you on a solid foundation for learning calculus.

    Then, get a good calculus textbook and go from there. A good one is "Essential Calculus With Applications" by Richard A. Silverman, but there are many others, I am sure you can get more recommendations by searching the forum. Just one thing, and this is important: make sure to work through all of the problem sets and check your answers, either against the answer key in the back of the book, or by asking questions in the homework help section of this forum. Don't ever let yourself believe that you have "learned" math or physics unless you can apply your knowledge to solve problems. I know for myself I need to work through a dozen or more problems for every chapter before I truly begin to understand the material.
  4. May 21, 2005 #3


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    One more thing: a good way to construct a logical course of study for yourself is to review college catalogs to see what sort of courses are required of physics majors, and in what order. When I did this, I found that most undergraduate programs offer the same basic course of study. Follow it, and you won't need to reinvent the wheel.



  5. May 21, 2005 #4
    Thanks for the excellent reply! I had'nt thought of looking at college and university programs in that sense.

    I have'nt "studied" math in 14 years, but I do use the (very) basics every day. I guess it's safe to say the most complicated thing I use is Snell's Law...if that gives you any idea :biggrin: I have a long row to hoe!
  6. May 21, 2005 #5


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    Good luck! Here's something else you might find helpful:

    Be sure to come back and let us know how you are doing.
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