What to do to prepare for taking physics: 2. Making sure your math skills are solid

In physics, math suddenly becomes something useful. It’s now a tool that will tell you how quickly something gets somewhere, or how high it will go if you shoot it out of a cannon. This is awesome, but it can also be hard, because if your math isn’t solid then when you’re in the middle of a tough physics problem you might get distracted as you try to figure out how to solve for the root of a quadratic. By the time you figure it out you’ve forgotten why you were solving for it. (Also, this happens to everyone, so it’s not bad, we just want to minimize it as much as possible.) Hopefully, the math has been practiced enough that it’s somewhat second nature, so you can focus on the reasoning behind the math you’re doing.

Luckily, there isn’t too much math you need to know, it’s not too fancy. Here’s a quick quiz you can take to see if you’re ready:

 Math for Physics Diagnostic Quiz

Work through the problems, and if there are some you can’t get that’s no problem, it just means there is some stuff you might want to review before you start your class. Here is the answer key so you can check your answers:

Answer Key

Next, for each question you missed, here’s a homework assignment for you:

1 or 2.  First, watch this video. Then, do this worksheet. Check your answers as you go.

3. First, watch this video. Then, do this worksheet. Check your answers as you go.

4 or 5. First, watch this video on quadratic equations, then watch this video on solving for their roots. Then, do this worksheet. Check your answers as you go.

6. First, if you’re new to vectors, watch this introduction and this overview. Then, watch this video on finding the components of a vector. Work through this worksheet.

7 or 8. Start by reviewing trig ratios with this video. Then, watch this video about how to use them. Then, do this worksheet.


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