Recommendations on Physics Resources

Gearing up (dreading) taking physics this fall. Any recommendations for books/web resources that are helpful to glance at before class or during class? I’m a bit concerned that I haven’t had algebra or trig in so many years. Mine is not calculus based.

I’m going to echo Pixie on this one - Khan Academy, Khan Academy, and Khan Academy - online and FREE!!!

Hey, so I’m in the same boat…(kinda of)

haven’t taken a math class in God knows how long.

I picked up a recommended book on Precalc awhile back; “The complete idiot’s guide to Precalculus”

Trust me, this book is hands down one of the best refreshers for college algebra and trig. You absolutely will use trig in Physics but this book will make it less painful with the math rules and laws that we all forgot many moons ago.

Find it on Amazon and just look through the chapter reviews to see if it fits. Best of luck!


I was the same way! I had had trig recently but before that no math for ages before that and I am notoriously terrible at math.

The thing you will use the most from your trig is the angles sin, cos, tan ect, so review triangles : ) You would be shocked at how many of us (myself absolutely included but also the brilliant kids) got those things mixed up on tests especially when the angle isn’t where you are used to it being! (I think you will see this first in projectile motion )

I know they tell you over and over about identities in trig and how important they are in physics but I only saw them once second semester and she was really just showing us how to derive something

When I got stuck with a concept I looked up youtube videos (I always liked these people ).

In the end the biggest help for me was going to office hours and doing hundreds of problems, especially the ones I had the hardest time with. BUT if I could make it work I think anyone can!!! : )

Best of Luck!

I am in Physics this summer and I just posted a question to others on some physics tips more related to breaking down nasty word problems. In my opinion, get your algebra down really well. I just took calculus over the spring semester and I’m very glad I did. Before I took calc I had not had algebra in close to 20 years, so I needed refreshing. The algebra I had in gen chem had helped, but taking calculus was just what I needed to get my math brain back. I’m not taking calc based physics, but the point is not about knowing calculus as it is about knowing basic algebra, having the skills to manipulate formulas, understanding certain math rules, and even just having good calculator skills. The trig stuff I’m dealing with thus far in Physics seems rather straightforward. I think some basic trig videos on SOH CAH TOA will suffice for that. If you are really rusty and can take a formal algebra/calculus course, I think it will really help in physics. You know best what level you’re at, though. Check out the aforementioned Khan Academy videos and see where your understanding is at. Maybe you remember more than you know. Maybe you’re a math genius already and don’t need my suggestions anyway. However, I imagine anyone coming into the physics class I’m currently taking (Physics 120-1st semester of algebra based) would be heading for serious trouble if they did not have a very good handle on their algebra skills. For some excellent videos, lectures and other free materials check out MIT courseware, too. I have found some of their resources/videos helpful and some were just beyond the scope of what I can understand at this point, but worth checking out.

Best of luck! I for one, am not the biggest fan of physics. While I came to really enjoy (and excel in) my calculus course after initial reservations I don’t think I’ll ever grow to love Physics, but it can be made more manageable.

I agree with the Khan Academy suggestion. The online videos at KA helped me during the semester.

I also found Schaum’s Outlines for Physics w/ College Algebra to be a good resource.

Thanks everyone–helpful suggestions. I also have heard from folks that the freelance teacher videos on physics are very good. I used them a lot for ochem and found that there were great explanations at times (albeit long at other times…).

Also check out the answers to the post, " Physics tips anyone?(Topic#45234)" in the general discussion forum for a heads up on how to approach physics.

Details on a book that I found useful (my last math course was 18 years ago)are in my response there.

  • VickiV Said:
I'm going to echo Pixie on this one - Khan Academy, Khan Academy, and Khan Academy - online and FREE!!!!

Well done Vicki. Everyone must know the power of Khan.

Thanks sevenwheels–I found that answer to be very helpful. It was systematic, and I plan to use your strategy (once I understand what these physics problems are…) this fall!

One more suggestion: I have used their homework help section and found it was really great in helping me arrive at the answer myself (key for me as I want to understand this stuff, not just answer correctly on any one question). It was super when I was facing a TA lacking office hours and good explanations, a prof with office hours not in my available timeframe, and when I just couldn’t bang my head against the desk anymore. They really help guide you and don’t do the work for you. So, when the time comes for class and you find yourself not able to physically get in front of someone knowledgeable for help, this forum can be an answer. Plus, they have many other forums on the site that may help.

MIT Open Courseware has entire physics courses that you can take for free. The courses are previous lectures that have been put online. Many have videos, textbook suggestions, and problem sets/exams with answers.