Saturday, March 10, 2007

Secret Message to the People Complaining about Textbook Costs

Your argument that "calculus hasn't changed in 300 years" isn't the best way to make your case.

While it is true that calculus hasn't changed much, students and technology have changed a whole bunch. Maybe you want to use Napier's bones to calculate the orbits of the planets? Learn the method of fluxions? Use archaic notation? Spend a lot of class time learning clever calculational tricks that were designed to speed up tedious computations now done by calculators? Learn eleventy-zillion obscure techniques of integration* that are now better outsourced to Mathematica?

Epsilon-delta proofs used to be in the body of the text, not relegated to an appendix. And we did them for rational functions, not just linear.

Heck, you think your algebra is up to par and that you can handle the problems that were in some of these older calculus textbooks?

You'd be better off complaining that the online homework system really sucks and that the costs of developing and maintaining it are a waste of your money. I'd back you on that one.

*I am thinking of the more technical trigonometric integrals and all the variations on partial fractions, as were covered in the Thomas calculus that I learned from and that are given only a passing treatment in the Stewart that I teach from.