Some suggestions on how to do well in physics and Garnerís ten commandments on problem solving.
Contrary to what you may have heard, physics can be difficult and frustrating at times. Here are a few suggestions that I have found helpful to physics students.
Before I list these I have a comment. Learning physics is kind of like learning to play a musical instrument or sports. To do it well requires much effort and daily practice. To paraphrase an ancient Greek philosopher who was a tutor to a king, "there are no royal roads to physics"óeveryone has to struggle with it.
· Devote sufficient time to the course.
You should be spending about two to three hours out of class for every hour in class. Attend class regularly. Donít slacken off toward the end of the semester.
· Read the textbook & webnotes before the lecture.
Donít attempt the homework until you have read the textbook.
· Feel free to ask questions.
I have no way of knowing where you are having problems other than hearing from you.
· Work as many problems as possible and if you need help ask the instructor or the tutors.
Donít put off working problems to the last minute. Work a few problems every day. Many times if you get stuck on a problem and put it aside for awhile, when you take it up again you can quickly solve it. The textbook has many examples, the lecture has examples, the student study guide has examples, but at some point you need to solve problems on your own. You canít become a violinist by simply watching other violinists play the violin. (See below for more pointers on problem solving.)
· Headoff problems early.
If you do poorly on an exam go to the instructor to see the key and ask questions about where you had problems.
· Keep a positive attitude about the course.
· Work with one or two other students.
Garnerís Ten Commandments on problems
"I read the chapter and followed the lecture. But when it comes time for me to work the homework Iím lost."
Iíve heard this comment thousands of times. Problem solving is an artform that only develops over time and after hard work. The more problems you solve the better you get at it. Here are a few pointers on becoming a good problem solver.
See also How to solve it, G. Polya, Second Edition (Princeton University Press, 1957).