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This text takes the student with a background in the standard undergraduate courses in physics and mathematics towards the skills and insights needed for graduate work in theoretical physics. The author uses Green's functions to explore the physics of potentials, diffusion and waves. These are important phenomena of classical physics in their own right, but this study of the partial differential equations describing them also prepares the student for more advanced applications in many-body physics and field theory. Calculations are carried through in enough detail for self-study, and case histories illustrate the interplay between physical insight and mathematical formalism. The aim is to develop the habit of dialogue with the equations and the craftsmanship this fosters in tackling problems.