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Basic Math for Physics

Topic Review on "Title":
  • Algebraic operations:

If a # is … to a variable,

then … the # to solve for the variable




 5 = x + 2

-2       -2 

5-2 = x



  3 = x – 6

+6       +6 

3-6 = x



  2 = 4x

 2/4 4x/4

2/4 = x



2 · 6 = x · 2


2 · 6 = x

  • Adding & Subtracting with significant figures:
    1. Perform the calculation
    2. Determine the least # of decimal places in problem
    3. Round answer to that # of decimal places
  • Multiplying & Dividing with significant figures:
    1. Perform the calculation
    2. Determine the least # of sig figures in problem
    3. Round answer to that # of sig figures
  • Scientific Notation—a short hand method of writing numbers using powers of 10.
  • Writing scientific notation:
    1. The decimal point is always moved to after the 1st non-zero number.
    2. Count the number of times the decimal point is moved and use this as the power of 10.
    3. “Big” numbers (>1) have positive exponents.  “Small” numbers (<1) have negative exponents.
  • Trigonometry review:
    Trig functions are often used to find resultants and components.  The most useful
    relationships are:


  • Quadratic formula:
    The quadratic formula is sometimes useful for squared functions:

  • Graphing:
    Data is often graphed in physics.  Theses relationships are often analyzed to fit mathematical models.

Rapid Study Kit for "Title":
Flash Movie Flash Game Flash Card
Core Concept Tutorial Problem Solving Drill Review Cheat Sheet

"Title" Tutorial Summary :

Mathematics is vital to your study of physics.  Algebra is needed to isolate and solve for whatever variable is desired.  Physics often deals with very large, or very small values.  Significant figures and scientific notation make these extreme numbers manageable.  There are often many mathematical applications in physics.  Your previous knowledge of geometry, trigonometry, and graphing will all come into play with physics.  These tools will be used throughout many of the topics in this series.

Tutorial Features:

Specific Tutorial Features:

  • Step by step mathematical examples showing all details: solving for variables, significant figures, scientific notation, etc.

Series Features:

  • Concept map showing inter-connections of new concepts in this tutorial and those previously introduced.
  • Definition slides introduce terms as they are needed.
  • Visual representation of concepts
  • Animated examples—worked out step by step
  • A concise summary is given at the conclusion of the tutorial.

"Title" Topic List:
  • Using algebra to solve for a variable
  • Performing calculations with significant figures
  • Using scientific notation
  • Geometry and trigonometry
  • The quadratic formula
  • Graphing
  • Calculator tips

See all 24 lessons in calculus physics, including concept tutorials, problem drills and cheat sheets:
Teach Yourself Calculus Physics Visually in 24 Hours