Dying in a college math class? You need a better textbook.

So at this point, anyone that reads this blog knows I’m taking computer science classes at a local university. One of my ongoing beefs with * science majors is the (IMO) ridiculous amount of math classes that everyone has to take. In the case of computer science, I swear there are more math classes than there are actual computer/programming classes. It’s nuts.

Last summer I stumbled my way through a pre-calculus class (yeah, I didn’t need to go far with math when I got my BFA) and managed to get an A. I didn’t get an A because the professor was awesome (she was cool but I had a hard time learning from her), nor did I get an A because of the textbook. In fact, I got an A in spite of the textbook–what a utter and complete piece of kunk–and in spite of difficulties learning from my professor. My A was punk through and through. Buck the system, and all that.

I could wax philosophic about college math departments, but I’ll save my conspiracy theories for private conversations. Suffice it to say I think they do not all have your best interests in mind when they (a) choose their textbooks, (b) hire their professors, and (c) teach you math.

In my case, a double-whammy of difficult teacher + horrific textbook drove me to Kahn Academy and other free resources on the Internet. That worked for me, but I still wish my pre-calc class required less hunting. I wish I had a resource right here in my basement office that I could pull off a shelf and read instead of my assigned math textbook.

Turns out I could have done that all along. Oh, the things you don’t think about when stressing over functions.

I checked out other colleges near me and found one textbook that got consistently good reviews from students. It’s called College Algebra and Trigonometry through Modeling and Visualization (2nd Edition) by Gary Rockswold. It’s at least two editions behind the most recent edition, but the beauty of math is that it doesn’t change. The pre-calc you’re learning now is the same pre-calc that existed before Isaac Newton defined calculus. On top of that, when a textbook edition is two or more editions old, it’s dirt cheap. This book was about $150 new, but I got it through abebooks.com for $1.50. Note the decimal position. With expediting shipping, I paid $7. I win.

Long story longer: if your college math textbook sucks, get a better one. It’s cheap and you’ll do better in math in spite of your college’s efforts to knock you down. Bastards.

This entry was posted in school.

Comments are closed.