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Are You Ready for the Math?

The introductory physics sequence poses several major difficulties for the beginning student. First and foremost is the development of a set of physical concepts which are used by physicist to study the physical universe. But a second major difficulty is the application of mathematics to the study of physical phenomenon.

Mathematical Prerequisites

We expect students to enter our classroom with an already impressive array of mathematical tools available to them. The following is a sample list of the expected mathematical competence of students entering a first semester physics course with a calculus co-requisite.

But if you find that you are rusty on some of these topics how do you go about reviewing the material?

First try and determine what you need to work on. Then look at the resources available to you.

There are usually a number of good review books in the library and your old textbooks are likely to be useful. Or you can go shopping for a review book. Find one that has a short review of the material and also has many worked examples. Read the explanations and see if they are at the level that works for you. Make sure that the book has many examples with which to practice. There are a number of books available in the $10-$15 range.

Review books are not designed to learn brand new material. If you find that you have serious gaps in your understanding of mathematics, talk to your instructor about addressing this challenge. A math textbook may be your best bet or even a preparatory course. The investment, if necessary, will be worth the time and effort.


Back to Introductory Physics: A Learner's Guide