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Why does Physics have to be so hard?

  1. Apr 12, 2009 #1
    I'm going to be doing a little venting in this thread so if you don't want to hear about it, click the back button.

    I'm in my second year of school right now. I'm in Physics 2 which is just basic calc based physics (second semester). I am in awe at how hard this class is. I'm sure most of you reading this are probably laughing which is why I'm venting...

    Why does Physics have to be so hard to learn? I'm not sure if it's just this class or what, but it's almost as if they want me to derive the equations to use. I'll read the chapter 3 or 4 times and go back to the question. I start thinking about it, and realize that the entire chapter never covered this. The ONLY way I'm surviving in this class is from the tests... and even then I have to study my *** off. It's ridiculous really. After each homework assignment is due, the professor posts up the answers to the homework assignment from last week. The only way I can actually understand the question and how it is done is through looking at his solutions. After seeing how he comes up with solutions (to some, not all) I'm just astonished at how he came up with them.

    So then I have about a week to study the homework solutions (about 3 weeks worth of homework) so that I can understand it for the test. And even then, SOME OF THE ANSWERS ON THE HOMEWORK DON'T MATCH THE ANSWERS IN THE BOOK. WHAT THE HELL? I confront the professor about this and he basically gives me a blank stare... "ohh.. well let me fix that". It's extremely aggravating to say the least.

    Why must they make you jump through hoops to solve an equation that can be solved EASILY if you have the right knowledge? Do they think that I'll learn more if it's harder for me to grasp? Some of you may say that this is just part of the experience, but I must concur. I really feel like this class is a waste of time when the professor won't even help me out. I'll ask him a question about a problem, and he'll tell me about the problem and work it out to where I was stuck at. Then he just stops and acts like I should know what to do next. WHAT? I don't understand whey the professor doesn't go over examples that are at least SIMILAR to the ones in the homework. It seems like it's just a repetition of the book in class.

    Sure, the professors wants me to think for myself. I WILL AFTER I KNOW WHAT TO DO. I really think that it's just this class in the school I'm at which is the problem.. I'll make an analogy... this is how I perceive this class.. Let's say the professor is going over how to do addition. The professor will give an example of adding two apples to three apples and you get five apples... Then for the homework, he will ask a bunch of multiplication and division problems. WHY DOESN'T HE JUST SHOW ME HOW TO DO THE MULTIPLICATION AND DIVISION?

    I'm going to go pull my hair out.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 12, 2009 #2
    Would you like some cheese?
  4. Apr 12, 2009 #3


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    Well, we don't have much to go on, but hopefully one understands the equations. Is 2nd semester EM, Thermodynamics, Fluids, some relativity and nuclear?

    Ultimately, we were supposed to understand the terms in an equations, and from some basic theory, we had to apply general equations to more complex problems.

    By the time we studied partial differential equations we were supposed to derive them from basic principals. The idea was to understand the physics by deriving the equations, and then applying them.
  5. Apr 12, 2009 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    You are being taught to solve problems; not how to go through the mechanics of writing solutions. Other countries have different approaches, but in the US we seek to maximize suffering.

    Just consider it a mind expanding experience. You will be better for having done it.
  6. Apr 12, 2009 #5
    If you can't prove it you don't understand it.
  7. Apr 12, 2009 #6
    Some teachers are demented is all. When I was in college there was a German Teacher who was notorious for mumbling. It was impossible to follow her in class. Hints that she might not be enunciating well enough to be understood seemed only to baffle her.

    A friend of mine recently took a mythology class. Egyptian Mythology was briefly gone over, then the bulk of the classes focused on Greek Mythology. To everyone's outrage and bafflement the midterm consisted 90% of questions on Egyptian Mythology and no one got a passing grade. The teacher offered them the appeasement of lowering how much he would count the test toward their final grade, as if they still deserved some penalty for not being prepared for such a bait and switch. Had the test been primarily on Greek Mythology they would probably all have passed. I have no idea what the point of such a thing could be.
  8. Apr 12, 2009 #7
    Maybe you're just not studying efficiently. Do you strive to understand why and how equations are derived? You should try to come away from the reading with insight into how the things that you're reading about work.
  9. Apr 12, 2009 #8
    yeah, I don't the professor doesn't know the material nor doesn't each it well, but almost everything he does is theory. No examples. Is this really how most Physics classes are?
  10. Apr 12, 2009 #9


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    It's possible that there is a correlation with baldness and physics, but then again ... Einstein was no baldy, just a receding hairline, ... or else that's all he could easily reach?
  11. Apr 12, 2009 #10
    I have no idea how most physics classes are taught. All I know is that once in a while you run into a teacher whose methods seem authentically demented.
  12. Apr 12, 2009 #11
    If it were easy, everyone would get to do it. And where's the joy in that?

    Seriously, as a Physics 2 student myself, I feel your pain. I've found it helps to buy or borrow from the library book along the lines of what you're learning in class. Sometimes reading the same thing worded a bit differently helps to cement it in my mind and make the concept clearer.
  13. Apr 12, 2009 #12
    Can't blame your professors for your own failure in understanding the material.

    I think the best option for you is to stop blaming others for not able to understand the material and try to develop habits of learning material without professors help/spoon feeding. I am not sure how successful one can be if s/he keeps on relying on others..
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2009
  14. Apr 12, 2009 #13
    Because he thinks better of you ?
  15. Apr 12, 2009 #14

    This was in no way meant to blame ANYONE! I know it looks like I'm blaming my professor, but all I was trying to say was that I think the class could be a little easier with a different teaching method. However, I just started this thread as a way for me to vent.. not blaming anyone. I'm sure I'll get through school just fine.
  16. Apr 12, 2009 #15

    Ivan Seeking

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    I think the point that you're missing is that the goal is not to make the class easier. Who are you to say what might be the best teaching method?
  17. Apr 12, 2009 #16
    I never said I knew what the best teaching method would be, but I can tell you that offering examples and not pure conception would help most students understand the material a little better. You can't argue with that, can you? I mean just like it math... you do a bunch of different problems so that you can start to do any problem thrown at you. Just because you understand how to do the math, the experience of actually performing problems is where you actually learn the material.
  18. Apr 12, 2009 #17
    I don't know about that, we are social beings. Mankind has made it this far by passing down knowledge from generation to generation. This wouldn't be possible if the educators couldn't teach for crap, and the OP is probably experiencing this.
  19. Apr 12, 2009 #18
    How do you know how well the teacher teaches. Are you in said class?
  20. Apr 13, 2009 #19
    If it were easy, nobody would pay you to do it.
  21. Apr 13, 2009 #20
    Let's just stop teaching physics at all and leave it to people who can figure it all out for themselves from scratch. Sink or swim!
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