Good day. This is my first post and I was not sure whether to post here or on Math StackExchange. Since the end product of my goal results in ultimately understanding some basic math in physics, I decided to post here.

Graduated HS in '95 and did not take any upper level math. I did take 'College Algebra' in Community College long ago, but a lot of it is fuzzy. Today students in middle school are taking the same math that I took as a senior in HS.

I've been searching for a math text or texts that will give me a review of the algebra, trig, and geometry needed for basic non-calculus based mechanics self study. Everything I find is either too detailed or too broad with nothing in between. I want to eventually learn calculus once I have a grasp on basic physics concepts using algebra.

Can anyone suggest a math text that would give me the basics I would need to delve into a algebra based physics book on mechanics (Mechanics as in kinematics, motion, Newton's laws, etc.)? A prerequisite to understand R. Shankar's "Fundamentals of physics" (This is just a broad example) or a similar title, starting with mechanics.

I want to move past the conceptual phase of learning physics to understanding mathematical equations and ultimately calculus based physics someday in the future. Plan on spending an hour or two after work and weekends on this endeavor.

Appreciate the feedback.

Additional info:

I have tried Khan academy in the past and found it to be a great resource. I have also tried the MIT Open Courseware and that is a bit too complex at the moment, but a great place to go later.

I just wish there was a comprehensive list of all pertinent mathematics needed for a general classical mechanics course. I know that the basics of algebra are needed for everything, like simplifying and factoring, but there are probably a lot of math topics on Khan academy and all other online math resources that will not aid in the pursuit of physics. I will eventually want to learn as much math as I can, albeit for physics or not, but my immediate goal and real passion is to learn the math needed to understand physics better.

I'll look harder. Maybe there is a comprehensive, chronological list of math topics needed for physics, with each topic building on the previous topic. I may be asking for too much in such a list, but it would be a great resource for the physics amateur enthusiast and the student alike.

  • $\begingroup$ Have you tried YouTube videos on these basic math topics ? I personally found Schaum Outline books very useful, although I was never in your exact position - check them in your local library if you have one near. $\endgroup$ Sep 22, 2020 at 2:05
  • $\begingroup$ Have you tried checking a nearby university library for mathematical physics books? I think I looked in over ten before finding one I really liked that suited me. $\endgroup$
    – Emil
    Sep 22, 2020 at 6:19

2 Answers 2


So you need basic algebra and basic trig. I think searching on the internet for trig things like https://www.mathsisfun.com/algebra/trigonometry.html will give you a good place to start and for algebra https://www.mathsisfun.com/algebra/index.html it should be mostly moving around things in and equation. For non-calculus or non-vector (something with a direction and magnitude) physics is mostly conceptual and uses things like Desmos graphing software to plot equations to give you an understanding of whats going on. The internet is amazing for these things and there are examples of these problems out there from highschool/college(UK) students which can help. Books will always cover to much irrrelevent stuff at this leval because they are mostly taught in parts of courses that have textbooks.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your response. I briefly took a look at the 'mathisfun' web pages (it's 4:50am before work) and really think the format is easy to navigate and makes it easy to jump to individual math topics within the larger discipline (algebra / trig). I also looked up the Desmos graphing calculator site that I did not know existed. For someone who knows little about math, I think it is an excellent idea to take the time to look and see what these equations look like plotted on a graph, at least until I get used to the basic format of the different types of equations. $\endgroup$
    – Nathan D.
    Sep 22, 2020 at 9:54
  • $\begingroup$ I'm happy that it helps the internet is a great resource for finding the info you need and the guy bellow recommending khan academy is a good shout. $\endgroup$ Sep 26, 2020 at 23:14

This isn't a textbook, but Khan Academy has video courses, complete with problem sets, for all the standard high school mathematics courses, and even some more advanced courses like Multivariable Calculus, Differential Equations, and Linear Algebra (although these courses do not come with complete problem sets). All the courses are designed for independent learning.

Beyond that, MIT also has many college-level mathematics courses available through its OpenCourseWare initiative. Many of these courses have textbook recommendations, video lectures, and problem sets. They are much more fast-paced than the advanced Khan Academy courses, and contain much harder problems.


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