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Starting to learn High School Physics


After getting a wonderful expert advice from Ishan Dasgupta, I have decided extending my course to high school physics, and again I need help!

I have just written this note to learn about the mathematical prerequisites for high school physics. Here is what I am preparing with

  • Basic Trigonometric identities

  • Basic understanding of derivatives and integrals and their formulas.

  • Quadratic Equations and their roots along with Complex Numbers.

Please tell what more should I learn in order to grasp the concepts. I think Trigonometry also needs some extension. Please comment on that too. Also recommend online resources for help, if possible.

Thank You


Swapnil Das

Note by Swapnil Das
1 year, 4 months ago

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when i was 14, I thought trig was so useless when I was in class taking it.

\(\text{Not my answer, but it's worth reading!}\)

Know your basic 6 trig functions and their graphs. Understand the unit circle and how to create each point without simply memorizing it. Obviously, that means know your special angles. It is also very important that you remember the fundamental identities (more important for calculus).

Naturally, every student will not remember everything from trig. I believe the important things to remember will include the special angles and their values, as well as the basic trig identities. Students should also learn well the Pythagorean theorem.

You should learn and remember geometry, how to apply it, and work with it because you will use trig all throughout calculus and physics.

Know like the back of your hand: values of sine, cosine, tangent on the unit circle; all trig identities, double and half-angle formulas; definitions of sine, cosine, tangent; inverse and reciprocal functions of sine, cosine, and tangent and their boundaries [domains]. I am sure there are more, but these are the basics one must know to succeed. The more proficient one is in trig, the easier it will be for one to grasp concepts and manipulate/simplify equations later on.

\(\text{REMEMBER!! Work smarter, not harder and DON'T PANIC! }\)

Trigonometry seems hard at first, but it is the absolute basics of physics and calculus. You must totally understand everything in it.

It is extremely important to know first hand the basic trigonometric functions, to make a clear distinction between degrees and radians (conversion), in a way to transform the physics problem into a basic math problem.

The sine and cosine curves and the concept of amplitude is very important in order to understand related concepts in physics.

Go ahead and commit all of the various trig identities and the unit circle to your long term memory. Do not just cram the night before a test. You will need these in both physics and calculus. Therefore, if you spend a little bit of extra time now committing them to your long term memory, it will save you a lot of trouble later.

I would tell that one don't necessarily need to remember all the formulas, but understand the ideas and theorems because they come back to haunt you. Once you understand what's going on, the formulas will be no problem.

Physics depends on "trig" in a lot of concepts.

Keep the knowledge dealing with the difference between radians and degrees, and at least the basics of "sin", "cos", and "tan", including their relationships with each other and the components needed to find them. I struggled because I did not get a good background in trig. (mine is similar case) Study! Study!! Study!!!

I would advise them to retain as much as they can from the course because they are going to use the unit circle (in radians and degrees) in the next classes if they are going to science or engineering majors. Also, the sum of vectors we learn in trig class is very useful for calculus and physics.

I would tell current trig students to remember how to convert deg to rad and rad to deg as well as trig identities. There is also a fair amount of vectors used in physics and calculus that if not learned in trig, should at least be studied by the student on his/her free time.

@Swapnil Das According to me, at present , you should Devote your time to Trigonometry. After Trigo, you should move on to Calculus.

\(\text{ You MUST do everything in the correct sequence without skipping a single concept}\).

And i think @Sandeep Bhardwaj Sir might better guide you about concepts you should know or should have already known. b/c when i was 14, i was so busy in other things than studying maths & physic's. \(\ddot \smile\) Nishant Rai · 1 year, 4 months ago

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@Swapnil Das

Success in physics depends on your ability to do four things:

(1) Learn the basic principles and equations of "classical mechanics", including Newton's Laws and conservation of momentum and energy, and when to apply them;

(2) Read word problems, figure out what principle must be applied (identify the problem), and set up the appropriate equations;

(3) Apply basic mathematics skills (algebra and trig) to simplify and solve systems of equations and use mathematics as the language in which new ideas are expressed.

(4) Compute the answer accurately and round the result properly.

Of these, weaknesses in math preparation appear to be the main reason students struggle in the class.

The following route is pretty standard: Algebra -> Geometry (regular High-School geometry) -> Trigonometry -> Calculus -> Linear Algebra -> Differential Equations.

High school physics is Algebra based. So you should have a good understanding of Algebra and some Geometry.

I can tell you that any physics course will require you to be able to solve basic equations routinely. You may also need to solve some quadratics using the quadratic formula. Most physics courses will also require some right triangle trigonometry, which is usually taught in geometry, as well as some knowledge of exponential equations (for radioactive decay) and logarithms (for relative intensity level of sound).

Physics and calculus go hand in hand. i honestly felt that physics was a lot easier when i understood calculus. So \(\text{One must devote time to CALCULUS.}\).

Learn the material. Don't just memorize the steps to solving a problem, rather, attempt to understand and be able to apply the broader concepts. Don't assume that anything can be forgotten once the class is over, it ALL comes back in some form (especially Trig identities and vectors).

All that stuff seems boring, with having to remember odd identities and formulas, maybe even the appearance of a sin, cos, or tan function given certain variables? Well, it is boring. But without that knowledge, you'll go from bored to clueless.You won't remember everything, but get all the basics down so you'll be able to catch up quickly if you have to use the info later. Nishant Rai · 1 year, 4 months ago

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@Nishant Rai Thank you for your help! Can you please let me know what should I learn now? I mean, should I learn trigonometry more or start learning calculus? And can please suggest some algebra concepts that I should already know? Swapnil Das · 1 year, 4 months ago

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To start with Trigonometry/Calculus, i agree with Ishan for Paul's Online Math Notes

I agree with @Ishan Dasgupta Samarendra - "I suggest you first solve problems in books (once through with the basics of Calculus, the Class 11 RS Agarwal - much as I despise it - is a good book to start slightly more advanced Calculus from). Once you complete it, you will be able to solve the Level 1-2 (and some Level 3 problems) problems on Differentiation with ease."

And don't worry, once you become proficient in Algebra-Geometry-Calculus ,you'll not face any problem in Physics. Nishant Rai · 1 year, 4 months ago

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@Nishant Rai Thank you Sir! Swapnil Das · 1 year, 4 months ago

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@Swapnil Das If you need any help in Physics, you can ask me \(\ddot \smile\), will surely try to help.

@Swapnil Das Nishant Rai · 1 year, 4 months ago

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@Nishant Rai Can u help me in physics? Aditya Chauhan · 1 year, 4 months ago

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@Aditya Chauhan how may i help you? @Aditya Chauhan Nishant Rai · 1 year, 4 months ago

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@Nishant Rai Thank you very much! Swapnil Das · 1 year, 4 months ago

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