Advising Information
for TCC students
on physics course options

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

Office hours   can be found here   along with E-mail addresses
Last updated: 14 July 2006

Please click here and read some general suggestions and warnings.

One of those warnings applies specifically to PHY1053: The algebra-based PHY1053 class is only offered in the fall at TCC. If your major requires algebra-based "college physics", you need to plan ahead so you will have met the trig prerequisite in time to take PHY1053 in the fall. Some desperate students whose majors also require taking some calculus will try to take PHY2048 (which is offered both fall and spring) only to find out that it is much harder than PHY1053. It does not make much sense to repeat PHY2048 next fall when you could have waited and passed PHY1053 then.

Future engineers should read very carefully the PDF file of my Advising Info for Engineering Majors and also check out the more detailed information given on my advising page for engineers.


PHY 1053

This is an algebra-based physics course. You will learn to solve problems involving an object sliding down a hill, the motion of a projectile, what muscle force is required to hold something in your hand, and collisions. The solution of these problems requires the use of basic trigonometry as well as algebra, which is why trig is required before you can take this class. Most other problems require basic algebra at the 1105 level, which you are also expected to remember, although this course does include a review of some algebra and trig topics. There is a required lab.

Who should take it:
Students planning to major in architecture, pharmacy (at FAMU and many other schools), and physical therapy at a university after earning an AA degree. Many (but not all) biology and pre-med majors also take this course, often as juniors or seniors, although you might do better to take it at TCC. Caution: Some universities (or graduate schools, if that is your goal) require PHY2048 for those majors. Always check what is required at the school you plan to transfer to after earning an AA.

Who should not take it:
Students planning to major in computer science, engineering, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, or mathematics, as well as students in other science or science-related majors that require physics with calculus. They will be wasting their money, since they must pass PHY2048 and you cannot earn credit in both classes. They will simply lose the credits (and grade) earned in 1053.

You must have passed MAC1105 and remember how to do basic algebra. You also need a C in MAC2114 or get the permission of the instructor (Dr. Randy McKee) and an "override" from the Dean (Dr. Frank Brown) to take this class. How much you remember from algebra and trig is sometimes more important than the grade you got in those classes.

This course is only offered in the fall. You need to put together a program of study where you can pass MAC1105 (college algebra) by the spring semester and take MAC2114 (trigonometry) no later than the summer before the year when you need to take PHY1053. If your major also requires calc I, you can take pre-calc along with PHY1053 in the fall and calculus in spring (along with PHY1054, if needed). Note that we currently advise students to take pre-calc before trig and then take calculus, and this is what you should do unless it would not allow you to pass trig before the fall semester.

You can probably get the permission of the instructor to take PHY1053 if you failed trig in the summer, provided you can convince him that you learned the basics of trigonometry used in physics. However, doing so will require a special "override" from the Dean because the computer system will enforce the trig prerequisite.


PHY 2048

This is a calculus-based physics course for persons majoring in Engineering, a physical science, computer science, and a few other majors depending on the program or university you plan to attend. My former students tell me that my PHY2048 class prepared them well for their engineering classes. Some even claim to be better prepared than their FSU or FAMU colleagues, but I think this is more because they listened when I told them they needed to know something next year as well as on the next exam than because of what I cover in class.

The course is calculus based but calculus takes a secondary role to algebra, trig, geometry, and thinking during the first semester. Since I teach it, you can learn more about it by talking to me or following the link to PHY2048 from my home page. We make extensive use of vectors (a topic I quickly review because it is rarely covered thoroughly in trig classes) and solve 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 we use them in the physics class. There is a required lab.

Who should take it:
Students planning to become engineers, computer scientists, or chemistry, biochemistry, physics, or math majors when they transfer to a university after earning an AA degree. It is also required for science education majors. Some universities require PHY2048 for a wider range of majors, and some that don't require it for an undergraduate major might require it to get into graduate school in the same field. Always check what is required at the school you plan to transfer to after earning an AA.

Who should not take it:
Students who are only required to take PHY1053 (such as pharmacy or architecture majors planning to go to FAMU) but cannot take it during the current semester because PHY1053 is not offered in the spring. Better to wait one semester than get a D or F and have to repeat PHY2048 in the fall when you would have taken PHY1053 if you had waited.

You must have a C in Calc I (MAC2311) or be currently enrolled in it to take this class. I will assume that you are passing Calc I and will use some calculus as the course progresses, including on the final exam. The implied requirements are that you remember basic geometry and trigonometry from previous classes (or relearn it on your own from the textbook appendix) and be able to solve algebra problems (particularly "word" problems) by applying the equations learned in the course. If you got at C in either pre-calc or trig, I strongly advise you to pass Calc I before taking physics. (Calculus skills are never the reason someone fails this course, but most students who fail physics also fail Calc I when taking them both at the same time. Their math skills are too weak for either class. )

Almost all of the majors that are required to take PHY2048 are also required to take CHM1045. If you fall in this category, I strongly recommend that chemistry 1045 be completed while taking MAC1105 or pre-calc, before taking physics. You will learn about SI units, develop the skills of working with units, applying equations to solve problems, and learn a tiny part of the thermodynamics we cover in PHY2048. This might only be a week's worth of material in PHY2048, but every little bit helps. The pages I have put together showing some suggested programs of study for engineering and computer science majors all have CHM1045 before PHY2048.

Students in the AS degree program in Construction Technology at TCC should complete the calculus requirement before enrolling in PHY2048. Those who got an A in both trig and precalc within the last few months might consider taking MAC2311 and PHY2048 at the same time if their work schedule allows enough study time.

See below for other comments on scheduling your math classes. Here I will just remind you that you are expected to learn that math, not just pass the classes and forget it all. We will use it without any review.


Additional comments for future PHY2048 students

There is a separate page of advice for PHY2048 students that summarizes these suggestions and adds some other warnings. (It never hurts to see important things twice.)

If you are planning to major in an engineering or science program, I think you should complete the entire physics sequence and all of calculus (including differential equations) before graduating with an AA. (click here if you are worried about earning more than 60 credits.) Engineers should also check out a separate advising page for engineers as well as the PDF file of my Advising Info for Engineering Majors

Majors other than engineering or physics rarely require that you have completed PHY2048 before you can start taking junior-level courses. For example, computer science majors only need Calc I (MAC2311) and Programming I to transfer as juniors. (My understanding is that COP2220 and a second programming course, either COP2221 or Java, is required to meet the prerequisites for the Object Oriented Programming class at FSU.) If you are in a major like computer science, you should take physics at TCC only if you have the math background to succeed. See below for details. In addition, you will probably want to take CHM1045 as one of your additional required science-for-majors classes. If so, you should take it before you take physics. (I also remind you of the need for 3 semesters of a foreign language if you are going to FSU in computer science.)

I repeat below some very specific warnings about math preparation.  

You should reconsider taking calculus and physics at the same time if you earned a C in either MAC2140 (pre-calc) or MAC2114 (trig). Students who got a C in the MAC2147 (combined trig and pre-calc) honors course at TCC should do OK. Many students with those grades do not succeed in physics. If you have a C in one of these classes, I strongly advise you to either "audit" the class you did poorly in and improve your skills, schedule extra study time (at least 1 hour every day at the Learning Commons plus 3+ hours every day, including weekends, at home), or

  1. pass Calc I (MAC2311) alone
  2. take Calc II (MAC2312) alone unless you got an A or B in MAC2311
  3. then take physics.
I also advise you to think about taking PHY2048 and Calc II (MAC2312) separately if you took a semester off and do not remember everything you "knew" when you took your Calc I final exam. Once you are past Calc II, there is usually little problem taking PHY2048 and/or PHY2049 with differential equations (MAP2302) or Calc III (MAC2313) as needed.

Data on success and failure in physics say very clearly that students who could not earn at least a B in the relatively easy trig and pre-calc classes are unlikely to pass physics.

Why do students whose algebra skills are weak end up struggling if they take both calc I and physics at the same time? Think of it this way: taking PHY2048 and MAC2311 together is the equivalent of taking a 9-hour math class plus, because of the time required to write lab reports in PHY2048L, a 1-hour english class. If you had to work really hard to pass MAC1105, trig, or pre-calc (each of which is only a 3-hour course), you will not have the time to take a combination that is more work than all three put together. If you are in this category you should pass calc I and calc II first, ideally in the summer, and don't plan to take any challenging classes while taking physics I.


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