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Which way to teach myself?

  1. Feb 19, 2012 #1
    Im in college, but things are moving too slow for me. I want to teach myself the basics of a first year physics course. I have almost no calculus knowledge. Should I try to learn calculus before a first year physics course, or would it not hurt to teach myself from an algebra only textbook (Didn't know they existed tbh, another topic mentioned them.)
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2012 #2
    In first year Physics Algebra is more important than Calculus, you are constantly rearranging things in formulas. It wouldn't hurt to learn some basic calculus though, i.e. learn what a derivative, and an integral are and how to integrate/differentiate basic functions. When you study electrodynamics for example though calculus is used extensively, but for now I wouldn't worry to much about it :)
  4. Feb 19, 2012 #3


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    Gold Member

    fellupahill, Regarding the importance of mathematics, here’s a quotation I recently read:

    “The structure of the natural sciences is as follows. Physics rests on mathematics, chemistry on physics, biology on chemistry, and, in principle, the social sciences on biology.”

    “The Folly of Fools”, by Robert Trivers, 2011, Basic Books
  5. Feb 20, 2012 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    Are you asking which mathematics to self-study before you do the physics course, or are you asking whether your self-study should be of physics or of maths?

    If the latter, then I'd go for physics. It is surely more interesting and with more variety, and there are lots of readable introductory physics textbooks (in second hand bookshops).

    Get yourself a taste of physics before the formal introduction.
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