Tag Archives: Science

Practical Tips for Your First Physics Class Part 2

Irvine Physics Tutoring: Practical Tips for Your First Physics Class Part 2

These final three tips now pertain to solving physics problems themselves. Every chapter in your physics class will include word problems. Sometimes the questions will be exclusively word problems. You need to know how to tackle the confusing ones if you’re going to succeed – book your private Irvine physics tutor today.

4. Draw pictures

Draw your vectors. Draw your free-body diagrams. Draw your circuits. When they tell you that a ball is thrown off a building at a 45-degree angle, draw the ball, draw the building, and draw the angle. Draw your triangles, label everything, and give yourself enough space to make it clear. This will help you avoid mistakes, understand what’s going on, and also help your teacher grade your work or help you.

Many students get lazy with their pictures or try to skip them as a short-cut. Don’t do this. Just draw your picture. Everyone makes mistakes — especially with physics word problems — but a carefully made picture can help you prevent them.

5. Write down your variables

An extremely common issue students have with solving physics problems is not knowing where to begin. Physics classes tend to include a very high number of word problems with multiple sentences, variables, and details. This can feel overwhelming, especially if the problem does not feel familiar, and can lead to giving up before you even get started.

To combat this, you want to pull the details and numbers from the problem and write them down in a list. If they tell you the mass of a ball is 10 kilograms, then write down mball = 10 kg. If they tell that ball is initially moving at 15 meters per second, then write down vball initial = 15 m/s. Listing your variables can help make complex problems generic.

6. When you’re stuck, just try your equations

Once you have all of your variables written down, then you write down any equations you know that might be relevant. Did they mention friction? Write down any equations you have with friction. Is something going in a circle? Write down your centripetal equations. You can also just look at what variables you have and check your equation sheet for equations that use those variables. If you’re confused don’t be afraid to just guess an equation that might be helpful. See where it takes you and if you can solve for anything important. Worst case scenario is you still get the question wrong. But at least you got some work on the page and opened yourself up to partial credit and a chance for success.
The biggest hurdle students have with physics problems is not knowing how to start and giving up. Your equations can help you. Get used to them, even if your class doesn’t make you memorize them. And if you are in an AP class you should get a copy of the AP equation sheet and start using it since it’s the one you’ll have for the test.

If you keep these tips in mind you will have a better chance of doing well in your first physics class. You already know that you should go to class, do your homework, take notes, and study. I don’t need to tell you that again. If you are still struggling with the class and your teacher can’t help you, consider hiring a private Irvine physics tutor to explain the material better and help you overcome your difficulties. Physics tutors are experienced in presenting the lessons in multiple ways to make sure their students understand. They are also familiar with physics and what you need to do to get a good grade.

Read part one here!

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

Practical Tips for Your First Physics Class – Part 1

Tips from a Private Irvine Physics Tutor: Practical Tips For Your First Physics Class


The internet is full of tips and tactics from bloggers, tutors, and teachers about how to excel in physics. Unfortunately, the predominant advice is the ever-prevalent generic comments that students have been hearing about every class in every subject for years: “go to class,” “do your homework,” “do extra practice problems,” “take good notes,” etc. If you’re lucky, your basic physics tips might also include some points about being good at math and trying to understand the concepts instead of just memorizing – book your private Irvine physics tutor.

You already know these things. These tips are continuously repeated and are not helping you better prepare for or succeed at physics. Here, we will cover six specific and practical tips that can help you get through your first physics class, whether it’s high school, AP, or college.

1. Be an expert at formula manipulation

Formula manipulation is typically an algebra 2 concept where you have an equation with multiple variables that you can alter to solve for specific variables or plug-in specific values. For example, the volume of a pyramid is V = 1/3 A H where A is the area of the base and H is the height of the pyramid. However, we can manipulate this equation to instead give us height instead of volume by dividing both sides by A and multiplying by 3: H = 3 V A

This skill is essential in physics where you constantly move variables from one side of an equation to another and substitute numbers and variable for other variables. In our pyramid example, we might have to substitute in an area equation to find the height: A = L W where L is length and W is width. This could give us the new height equation: H – 3 V L W

If this example did not seem very easy to you, you need to go back and practice a lot of these types of problems. Take equations with many variables and practice isolating each individual variable one at a time.

2. Be an expert at basic trigonometry

Your physics class likely won’t require you to know all of the identities and properties of trig functions that you may have learned/are learning in your precalc or trigonometry class, but you do need to be very good at your simple sine, cosine, and tangent definitions with right triangles, as well as the Pythagorean theorem. Don’t forget your SOH-CAH-TOA, make sure you can do a2+b2=c2 in your sleep, and practice finding missing angles and sides of right triangles even when they’re upside down or inside out.
Basic trig is vital for early vector problems. It is also common to break diagonal lines into their x and y “components.” Don’t fall for it if someone tells you to “just use sine” “or just take the cosine” when you’re doing these problems. Draw the triangle and figure out why you’re using that trig function. It will save you when the problems get harder later.

3. Know your units

90% or more of your physics work will revolve around only three basic units: the kilogram (kg) for mass, the meter (m) for length/distance, and the second (s) for time. You can break up almost everything you do into just these three simple components. The unit for speed is m/s. Think miles per hour translated to meters per second instead. Being an expert with your units can help your understanding of the equations and help you check your answers.

For example, a basic physics equation is the definition of force: F = M A where M is the mass of an object and A is its acceleration. The unit for mass is the kilogram, and acceleration is meters per second squared. Multiplying these we get kg*m/s2. In class, they will call the unit of force a Newton, but we now know that a Newton is just a kg*m/s2. When you hear new units like the Hertz, the Joule, or the Pascal, remember that you can break them up into these basic parts. This can help a lot with topics like conservation of energy. (Note that the units for temperature, Kelvin (K); current, ampere (A); and amount, mole (mol) are also fundamental units that are used to a much smaller extent in physics 101).

The first three tips can help you prepare for physics and understand what’s going on. You will be very confused if you don’t know your triangles and basic trigonometry. You’ll also be very behind if you can’t quickly modify equations and substitute variables. Finally, understanding the units and their basic components can set you up to actually understand some of what you’re doing when you do examples.

Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerds in Irvine and Anaheim.

tutor logo Ask A Nerd! SAT Subject Tests All blog entries, with the exception of guest bloggers, are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education professional? If so, email us at pr@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations. We want to make this the best free education resource in SoCal, so feel free to suggest what you would like to see us write.

California State Common Core Standards |TutorNerds

California State Common Core Standards

Is your student meeting the new common core standards? Do you even know what they are. Take a deep breath, we know the new standards have been a headache for parents, students, and educators alike. The good news? Our Orange County private, in home tutors are here to help!

Tutor-Nerds-Private-TutoringAccording to the state of California, a student should be able to demonstrate a certain criteria to be considered in line with the common core standards. Let’s take a look at what they say about independence and see if your child is meeting these guidelines. Below is a brief eight part list describing the standards, as well as our recommendations on how to achieve them. Remember, if you have any questions feel free to email us at: info@tutornerds.com or, if it’s a brief inquiry, tweet us:

A –   A student should be able to ask for help when necessary as well as be able to seek out information through printed material (books, texts and online materials).

TutorNerds recommendation: Reading is a key element here, so the more books your child reads at a young age, the better. Piquing his or her curiosity in books is a challenge these days as a consequence the internet, but it’s not an impossible task. In fact, the internet can be to your advantage. Utilizing websites such as Free-eBooks.net, is a great way to synthesizing literature and the internet.

B – Students also need to be able to “evaluate” and understand intricate texts “without prompting”. This essentially means that the student should be able to analyze information and be able to understand which elements of the text are important and which are not.

TutorNerds recommendation: This skill is learned over time and with practice, so starting young can be the path to success. For example, a great way to practice is by reading reports in local papers, such as the Orange County Register, then write a two to three sentence summary of the main points. Here’s a great help: 7 Critical Reading Strategies.

C – Students should also be “self directed” learners by the time they leave high school; they should be able to look for useful information on their own without distinct instructions. To illustrate, many college courses, especially higher level ones, assign readings, then ask students to integrate what they read into an exam question. Often, the professor won’t tell the students what pages or passages are the best for a high grade; it’s up to the student to know.

TutorNerds recommendation: Research projects are a useful tool when it comes to locating information, and can often be the best way to learn how to be a truly active learner. Problem solving in everyday life can also be a great step toward self-direction. For a younger child, something as simple as organizing their own homework binder or managing time with a list of at-home chores can help them get started. As for older students, a personal blog is a great place to research, organize the necessary information to publish an interesting post. Here’s an excellent article on student blogging: 5 Reasons Your Student Should Blog.

 D – Students must know about “multiple disciplines”. If your kid is really into a particular subject, that’s great but they should also be learning about, and be able to communicate their understanding of, English, math, history, science etc…

My recommendation: Expose your child to education outside of the classroom. Let them see art in the real world by taking them to a museum or gallery. Science can become a lot more fun if they can do a hands-on project. Geometry can become more relevant if a child understands how a building stays upright due to correct measurements and weight distribution.


E – Students should also be able to “construct effective arguments”. What makes an argument “effective”? Can your child persuade another to see their point of view? Can they empathize with a character in a book that is different from them? Arguments can be both written and oral, so helping your child with both will get them to the place they need to be faster.

My recommendation: Allow your child to slowly become comfortable with public speaking at an early age. Look at a character or situation in a novel and ask you kid to argue for one side or the other. See if they can convince you. This is easier said than done so a support Irvine private tutor might also be helpful in this situation. Programs for older students, such as Model United Nations, are also very helpful.

Being independent both academically and socially is crucial for success in college and the workforce. Working to meet independence can also be helpful when it comes to studying for standardized tests, general exams, and completing assignments.

As mentioned before, TutorNerds is here to help your student gain confidence and competence in the new common core standards. In addition to our private, in home tutoring services, we relay daily tips, information, and educational news right here on our tutoring blog and through our twitter. Please help others get the TutorNerds advantage by sharing our posts. Thank you!

tutor logo 7 Things Parents Should Ask New Teachers | TutorNerds | tutornerds.com All blog entries are written by Tutor Nerds. Are you an education, Orange County, CA, or other relevant blogger? If so, email us at info@tutornerds.com for guest blogging and collaborations.

Attention all Orange County, CA, high school students grades 9-12: Enter our essay contest for a chance to win $500! The deadline is quickly approaching.

Does Music Complement Math and Science Test Scores? | TutorNerds

Want Higher Math and Science Test Scores? Put on Your Headphones

From space travel to Silicon Valley, America has always been an innovative, progress forward country. Further, most of the world’s best Universities are found in our nation, as well as the biggest corporations, eager to hire their recent grads. So how come our children are posting flat test scores in science and math? Should we be concerned other nations, such as Singapore, are seeing test scores skyrocket, while ours remain flat? Of course we should.

With innovation comes the need for high-skilled workers. From engineers to statisticians, companies are beginning to rely on other countries to supply the brainpower where the U.S. lacks. To be fair, this isn’t a bad or unnatural thing, since globalization is the driving force of today’s economy, but it raises concerns in the realm of competitiveness. And where there is concern, there is debate.

slidebird1In an effort to pinpoint the ‘where and why’ American students aren’t learning as fast and efficiently as their contemporaries, schools have given (arguably) math and science most of their attention. Pressure is the keyword, as districts demand test scores are the main focus. Like a business consultant hired to eliminate overhead, schools are beginning to push subjects like music and art farther and farther down the priority list.

In Music Education for Creativity, Not A Tool For Test Scores, author Sarah McCammon reports that music educators are pleading music’s untestable benefits as the reason their classes should remain relevant. In her words,

 “some advocates say that rhetoric is missing the point and overlooking the virtues of music that can’t be tested.”

Few would argue music isn’t important to development, but it’s difficult to see, on paper that is, how it improves test scores. But what about that other buzzword, the one that usually describes the great minds who started the corporations hiring all the engineers? That’s right, creativity. Undoubtedly a key component in competitiveness, and a staple of America’s economic dominance, creativity is difficult to test for, but vital for success. That’s why many music teachers are arguing their classes should remain high on the priority list. Having a well-rounded education, including the arts, helps a student approach math, sciences, and life in general with more creativity and depth.

science-test-score All of this is good and well, but is it a bit of an overreaction? Are schools really putting music on the back burner? Some would argue no. For instance, the NPR article suggests schools, in general, aren’t ditching the pianos and violins so soon. To illustrate, Russ Whitehurst,

“points to a 2010 U.S. Department of Education report that found 94 percent of public elementary schools offer some kind of music classes, even if hours are being cut back in many places.”

As creativity becomes a focus for schools, especially higher education, there’s no surprise courses such as Stanford’s “Creativity: Music to My Ears” are becoming available to everyone, including non-musicians. Whether or not more or less music is the answer, the problem of America’s science and math drought is real and troubling.

Struggling With Math and Science?

As global competitiveness continues to grow, it’s crucial students don’t get too far behind in such topics. Luckily, we’re here to help. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your math and science courses, don’t hesitate to contact us today. Whether you’re from Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego, we’ll match you with the perfect tutor. From Pre-Algebra to Physics, we’ve got your back.