General advice for students taking PHY2048

from James Carr
Office: SM 290
Phone: 201-8971

Office hours   can be found here   along with E-mail addresses
Last Updated: 16 July 2009

Engineers should read carefully my Advising Info for Engineering Majors (pdf file) and my engineering advising web page .

Future engineering majors must realize that they get limited attempts at the required math and science classes. The specific requirements vary between engineering schools, but none of them tolerate repeated failures in "core" classes and all of them will count the attempts at every institution you have ever attended, not just TCC.

For example, the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering will not accept anyone who has a TOTAL of more than two failing grades (D or F) in the group of four "core" classes (MAC2311, MAC2312, CHM1045, and either PHY2048 or, if you are a Chemical Engineering major, CHM1046). Period, end of story, although they ignore withdrawals. Not only are there no exceptions to this rule, but any combination of two failing grades will result in provision admission where you must prove yourself with a specific grade in a specific challenging engineering course.

Florida gives you two attempts to pass EACH of the 8 "core" math and science classes they track, but they count a withdrawal as an attempt and require a 2.5 average in those 8 core courses. (Some majors at Florida require a minimum grade of B in math and physics classes.) USF is, at present, the most tolerant program if you need a third attempt to get a passing grade in a calculus, physics, or chemistry class. I think UCF will also accept a third attempt, but those policies are always subject to change.

PHY2048 is a challenging class that requires a great deal of homework and regular study. Cramming and short cuts don't work. (And if they do happen to get you a C, you will face a very high risk of failure in your first engineering class when you have to relearn all of physics while trying to learn engineering at the same time.) If you don't believe me, ask any student who passed my class last year how many hours they studied, then talk to some of the dozens of students who failed or dropped the class last year about how they prepared for the exams. Your plans must include one or two hours of studying every day (a total of 10 or more hours per week) just for physics, not counting the lab.

Are you in the correct course?

Pharmacy and architecture majors (particularly those planning to go to FAMU) are only required to take PHY1053 and should not take PHY2048. Other majors that list PHY1053 (or PHY2053) as the minimum requirement are telling you to take PHY1053, not PHY2048, at TCC. You need a good reason, such as plans to attend an elite graduate school that requires PHY2048, to take the harder physics class. The fact that PHY1053 is not taught in the spring is not a good reason to fail PHY2048. (You can get a "transient letter" to take it at FSU or FAMU in the spring.) Additional information about PHY1053 is given on my physics advising page.

If you are planning to major in engineering, you are in the correct course but might still need to rethink your plans regarding when to graduate from TCC. I think you should complete all of calculus (including differential equations, if your major does not require E-math 1 and 2) and the entire physics sequence before graduating with an AA. (click here if you are worried about earning more than 60 credits.) Our alumni at FSU share this opinion. You can talk to some of them at our Engineering Club meetings about this important point as well as how much physics and math they use in their classes.

Side note:
Students majoring in Civil Engineering at FAMU-FSU need to take a specific earth science class (such as GLY1030). This class will also fulfill their science distribution requirement.

Have you taken chemistry?

If your major requires chemistry, you should take CHM1045 before taking PHY2048. Every major that requires chemistry has a program plan that includes taking chemistry before taking physics (usually at the same time as precalc or trig). However, I understand that some students did not like chemistry in high school and decide to put it off until after they learn problem solving and better study habits in their physics and calculus classes. This is fine, but you will need to learn some things on your own.

Since the vast majority of students in the US who take "physics with calculus" are in a major that requires chemistry, very little class time or textbook space is devoted to the use of SI units, sig figs, unit conversion, and basic ideas from chemistry (such as topics like the mass of one mole that are covered in any decent HS class). If you do not know or remember the basics of SI units, you should study carefully all of the material on units that is in Chapter 1 of our text. Only part of one day of class time will be specifically devoted to this topic.

Because Chemical Engineering majors and students going to Florida are required to take two full sequences of physical science classes (CHM1045, CHM1046, PHY2048, and PHY2049), they will be exempted from the science distribution requirement if all four are taken at TCC before graduating with the AA degree. (This policy applies to any major that requires those 2 physical science sequences.)

If you want to be a Chemical Engineer, your plan at TCC should be structured so you complete all 4 semesters of chemistry (through organic chem) at TCC at about the same time you finish your physics and calculus classes. Some of these students will finish all of calculus before taking physics along with organic, while others will take organic with calculus and then take physics with the last calculus class. NOTE that chemical engineers going to FAMU-FSU do not have to take differential equations, but those going elsewhere do have to take MAP2302.

What is your math preparation?

I strongly recommend that you do NOT take physics (PHY2048) and calculus (MAC2311) at the same time unless you earned at least a "B" in both precalc and trig (MAC2140 and MAC2114, or MAC2147) on the first attempt. Data show that students who earned a "C" in either of those easy courses have only a small chance of passing either physics or calculus when taking them at the same time. On the other hand, data also show that well-prepared students taking MAC2311 at the same time as physics (those who earned an "A" in trig and still remember it and allow enough time every day to study for both classes) do as well or better than students who have already passed calculus.

In addition, if you only managed to earn a "C" in MAC2311, you should pass MAC2312 before taking PHY2048, particularly if you got a "C" in either trig or precalc. MAC2312 is harder than MAC2311 and makes extensive use of trig and trig identities as well as logarithms and series, not to mention everything you were supposed to learn in MAC2311. Physics homework and studying (at least 10 hours per week outside of class) may not leave you enough time to catch up in calculus.

You can get some idea of the reason for this if you read what former students say about what you need to know from trig to succeed in calculus and physics. The set of topics they identify is pretty complete, and the message they are sending to you should be unambiguous. As one student put it, basic algebra and trig are the "math we use without thinking". Do you know all of those things without having to open a book and review them? Many students manage to pass trig without knowing them on the final exam, thinking they got away with something. They will soon discover that they are expected to know them anyway without any time spent reviewing it in class. Similarly, we expect you to be fluent in algebra. A separate page gives my own comments about algebra and trig skills needed in physics and includes the success/failure data referred to above.

My advice on preparing for the first day of class gives some details on what you need to know from previous math classes. We make extensive use of vectors (a topic I spend one day reviewing because it is rarely covered properly in trig classes) and solve word problems that can involve geometry, trig, and doing algebra with several equations in several unknowns. Calculus is introduced slowly so students taking Calc I will have seen the methods in a math class before they have to use them in the physics class.

There is also a required lab. The lab reports take more time than those in CHM1045. You must answer pre-lab and post-lab questions and write a report. This takes time that you must include in your "budget" of weekly study time.


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