Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Education

Open Textbooks Win Over Publishers In CA 216

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the now-put-them-in-a-wiki dept.
Unequivocal writes "Recently California's Governor announced a free digital textbook competition. The results of that competition were announced today. Many traditional publishers submitted textbooks in this digital textbook competition in CA as well as open publishers. An upstart nonprofit organization named CK-12 contributed a number of textbooks (all free and open source material). 'Of the 16 free digital textbooks for high school math and science reviewed, ten meet at least 90 percent of California's standards. Four meet 100 percent of standards.' Three of those recognized as 100% aligned to California standards were from CK-12 and one from H. Jerome Keisler. None of the publisher's submissions were so recognized. CK-12 has a very small staff, so this is a great proof of the power of open textbooks and open educational resources."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Open Textbooks Win Over Publishers In CA

Comments Filter:
  • Common Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dintech (998802) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:21PM (#29053729)

    Thankfully common sense has prevailed. This is one monopoly that the world should be glad to see the back of.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      No kidding. What's the difference between the 10th edition you could use last year and the 11th edition you have to use this year? About $100 and a few rearranged chapters.
      • by just_another_sean (919159) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:30PM (#29053873) Homepage Journal

        No way, there are so many changes to Roman History all the time it definitely takes a full time publishing staff to keep up.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:47PM (#29054107)

          Don't you see how un-American this is? Your socialist "open" information is destroying yet another wholesome American industry. I bet we can blame Obama.

        • Re:Common Sense (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Mithrandir86 (884190) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:31PM (#29054727) Journal
          Actually, the understanding of historical concepts and trends evolves quite a bit. That is why open textbooks could be such a boon - it will allow teachers to exploit new research, rather than parroting an antediluvian consensus that have been since been altered considerably.

          No one, for example, takes Gibbon's argument on the Fall of the Roman Empire seriously anymore; similarly, no one takes the argument that Islamic cultures economically failed (in comparison with Europe) because of anti-capitalist religious precepts seriously either. Yet both were a part of serious teaching a few decades ago (the age of some textbooks).

          I remember one textbook I had as a child argued that the reason that Lowland Scots prospered in comparison with Highland Scots was due the Protestant work ethic bestowed upon them through Prebyterianism - in comparison, the Highlanders succumbed to their lethargic Catholic proclivities. Hilarious in hindsight, but slightly disturbing as real teaching.

          • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

            by davester666 (731373)

            New people keep winning wars around the world, and once that is done, they get started on re-writing history...

          • Actually, the understanding of historical concepts and trends evolves quite a bit.

            "Evolves" is the right word, too; it doesn't imply improvement, just changing to fit the times. Is it really possible to write a better history of Rome than was written by its contemporaries? Or do we just consider ourselves more enlightened? Sure, we've seen where a lot of the trends were headed, but surely we've lost a lot of context for understanding the events.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Chris Burke (6130)

            I remember one textbook I had as a child argued that the reason that Lowland Scots prospered in comparison with Highland Scots was due the Protestant work ethic bestowed upon them through Prebyterianism - in comparison, the Highlanders succumbed to their lethargic Catholic proclivities. Hilarious in hindsight, but slightly disturbing as real teaching.

            That's hilarious indeed, when according to my textbook the real reason was that there was an immortal Highlander who kept running around cutting peoples' heads

        • by Acer500 (846698)

          No way, there are so many changes to Roman History all the time it definitely takes a full time publishing staff to keep up.

          "A student who changes the course of history is probably taking an exam."

          Thanks to http://www.csbruce.com/~csbruce/quotes/general.html [csbruce.com] , a nice way to waste some time :)

      • Re:Common Sense (Score:4, Interesting)

        by VoyagerRadio (669156) <harold.johnson@gmail.com> on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:59PM (#29054277) Homepage Journal
        I usually buy my textbooks used through Amazon or Half.com or eBay but recently moved out of state and found the textbooks listed on my distance education course confusing -- it appeared to be some kind of bundle of books but didn't list the individual editions. So I opted to order the bundle directly through my college's textbook store and have them mail it out to me. First, they sent me a noticed stating that because they were out of used copies of one of the textbooks in the bundle, they would have to send me a "new" copy and charge the additional cost for it. This bundle of books came out to nearly $150 -- and it turned out the "new" textbook was the 2007 edition of a book that already had a 2010 edition available. I really felt burned -- not only had they shipped me a 2007 version of a book that had had 2008, 2009, and 2010 edition available, but they charged me full price for the book -- and I've discovered that the book is often available (used) on Amazon for less than ONE DOLLAR (plus shipping; search for "Discovering Computers", the Shelly Cashman series). The textbook industry and their relationships with colleges are due to die a slow (well, okay, make it quick) painful death. I'm all for making open and/or digital textbooks acceptable for the classroom.
        • by jtdennis (77869)

          They probably define "new" as never been sold and bought back, not as fresh off the presses.

        • The confusion caused by multiple editions or poor descriptions in the bookstore is why I generally talk to my professors before buying books. This semester, I was able to purchase all of my books before the bookstore even had listings for them, and I managed to save more than half what the bookstore now wants for those books. A couple of quick emails to the professors can save a great deal of time, especially if you can get them to specify ISBNs.
    • Re:Common Sense (Score:5, Insightful)

      by scorp1us (235526) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:13PM (#29054475) Journal
      You say that now, but wait for the Open Intelligent Design course materials come out.
      • Re:Common Sense (Score:5, Interesting)

        by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @02:14PM (#29055329) Homepage

        You say that now, but wait for the Open Intelligent Design course materials come out.

        It's actually kind of funny, but my experience as the author of some free physics textbooks as been almost exactly the opposite of the situation you have in mind. My books are written for use at the college level, but I have quite a few high school users as well, and the vast majority of these high schools are religious high schools, mostly Catholic schools. The reason is simply that state education bureaucracies make it impossible in most cases for public schools to adopt open-source books, so the ones who can adopt them are mostly private schools, and a lot of private schools are religious. I have one book that's written for the type of course that biology majors usually take, and I've taken tons of opportunities to work in mentions of evolution, e.g., in the chapter that discusses refraction I start off with the evolution of the eye. Doesn't seem to have bothered thes folks a bit. Of course the Catholic Church doesn't have any issues with evolution anyway.

        There have been plenty of fairly successful attempts, on the other hand, to get ID into schools through the traditional setup of public school bureaucracies, state legislatures, and textbook publishers. A lot of publishers water down the discussion of evolution in their K-12 texts in an effort to make them more salable in places like Texas.

      • by Duradin (1261418)

        Wouldn't Intelligent Design course materials have to existed from the beginning of the Earth and not have changed over the six thousand years of its existence (with any previous editions that are found being obvious fakes placed by Satan to confuse and deceive)?

  • by TaggartAleslayer (840739) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:21PM (#29053745)
    After having just spent a little over $600 on text books, I am quite interested to see how this plays out.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Killer Orca (1373645)
      According to TFA this study was done for high school textbooks only, perhaps they will go on to supply books to other grade levels but penetrating the cash cow that is university publishing is no easy task.
      • Unless state legislature makes it mandatory that state schools (colleges) use CK12's materials. Which I'm fairly certain they can do since they're the ones who dictate how much cash said colleges get.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:22PM (#29053751)

    ...of insolvency.

    Makes that free stuff all the better.

  • by FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:38PM (#29053969) Homepage
    But I hope we don't resort to wiki textbooks which anyone can edit.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by phrenq (38736)

      Those are the best kind! (Haven't you ever searched through a stack of used textbooks searching for the one with good notes and highlighting?)

    • Wikibooks (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tepples (727027)

      But I hope we don't resort to wiki textbooks which anyone can edit.

      What do you have against Wikibooks [wikibooks.org], especially if you use the revision as of a given date that the instructor has approved?

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        No instructor in his right mind would "approve" a wiki textbook. He'd have to read through the whole thing with a fine toothed comb. That's WHY textbooks come from big companies - because if there's a mistake you can reasonably blame the company. Try explaining that you decided to give your students as an authoritative reference some PDF you found on the Internet allegedly written by a hundred random, anonymous strangers.

        • by Atzanteol (99067)
          Shouldn't they be reading the text books anyway? What makes you think the publishers are any more trustworthy of doing a good job?
  • by mounthood (993037) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:41PM (#29054017)
    Funny story by Richard Feynman about selecting textbooks in California. Makes you hope for the future.

    In 1964 the eminent physicist Richard Feynman served on the State of California's Curriculum Commission and saw how the Commission chose math textbooks for use in California's public schools. In his acerbic memoir of that experience, titled "Judging Books by Their Covers," Feynman analyzed the Commission's idiotic method of evaluating books, and he described some of the tactics employed by schoolbook salesmen who wanted the Commission to adopt their shoddy products.

    http://www.textbookleague.org/103feyn.htm [textbookleague.org]

    • That's a great story. Thanks for that.
    • by RyoShin (610051) <tukaro.gmail@com> on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:04PM (#29054369) Homepage Journal

      For those who don't want to read the excerpt, here's the best (and most telling) bit: Of all those on the committee, only Feynman (I believe) actually read any of the books. Two books, followups to another textbook that had been submitted, had not even been finished, yet many of the committee panel gave them some of the highest ratings.

      I wish I was as cool as Richard Feynman.

    • by six11 (579) <johnsogg@cm u . edu> on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:07PM (#29054397) Homepage

      I was checking the comments to see if anybody had mentioned that yet, as I was going to say the same thing myself.

      I *highly* recommend that link, as well as the book from whence it came, Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman. In fact I think that book should be required reading for any self-respecting nerd.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You can read it in its entirety at

        http://www.gorgorat.com/

        And then you should go buy it and give it to a friend.

    • Why don't they just select that blank textbook for all science programs, thus eliminating most of the stupid problems in all the other textbooks.

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      No one really learns anything at the primary/secondary level anyway (aside from basic stuff like how to read, basic math. etc.). If you really want to learn about any given subject, you have to go to college--period. Schools are too burdened down with issues of conformity, discipline, teaching to too broad a spectrum of students, etc. In public schools at least, you can be a really bright kid--but how are you going to learn anything when you're sitting right next to several moronic hillbillies who disrupt c

  • aweome news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pak9rabid (1011935) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:56PM (#29054243)
    The text book industry is such a ridiculous racket it sickens me. Hopefully this becomes a standard thing across the world that colleges eventually adopt. Honestly, the only times I did open a textbook in high school and college was to do the problems out of the book. The Internet resources were more than enough to service my educational needs, in many cases it was actually far better than the crap in the textbooks.
    • Re:aweome news (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:10PM (#29054441)

      The text book industry is such a ridiculous racket it sickens me. Hopefully this becomes a standard thing across the world that colleges eventually adopt. Honestly, the only times I did open a textbook in high school and college was to do the problems out of the book. The Internet resources were more than enough to service my educational needs, in many cases it was actually far better than the crap in the textbooks.

      The problem is that the education industry is a ridiculous racket. The textbook industry is merely a subset of the education industry. One mistake many people make is that since most schools are non-profit and/or government run, they think that they are not driven to make money. I used to work for two separate college bookstore companies (not at the same time). Everybody always thinks that the for profit companies charge more for textbooks than the college run bookstores. That is not true, most college run bookstores charge a higher markup than the contractual markup that the for profit companies have (the for profit companies have a contract with the college or university that--among other things--sets the amount of markup the bookstore charges for textbooks over the publisher's price).

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by pak9rabid (1011935)

        The problem is that the education industry is a ridiculous racket. The textbook industry is merely a subset of the education industry.

        I couldn't agree more

        Everybody always thinks that the for profit companies charge more for textbooks than the college run bookstores. That is not true, most college run bookstores charge a higher markup than the contractual markup that the for profit companies have (the for profit companies have a contract with the college or university that--among other things--sets the amount of markup the bookstore charges for textbooks over the publisher's price).

        Agreed as well. In fact while I was in school and when I managed to get my parents to buy my textbooks, they wouldn't even bother with the local bookstores (including the university ones). Instead they would scour the Internet for them and usually find them for 1/3 of the price. The downside to this, however, is I'd come in with some pretty janky-ass looking books that weren't even allowed to be sold to people in my region, complete with 'NOT FOR SALE IN NORTH AMERICA' disclaimers pri

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Toonol (1057698)
          The downside to this, however, is I'd come in with some pretty janky-ass looking books that weren't even allowed to be sold to people in my region, complete with 'NOT FOR SALE IN NORTH AMERICA' disclaimers printed all over the covers.

          Just did that for my son. 1st edition physics textbook, $160 at the bookstore; used copies around $130. Identical copy, new, purchased online from a bookseller in India: $14. In English, identical in every way (same page numbers, same sample problems), but with the "not
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Really? Do your university bookstores NOT sell the texts for the price printed on the cover?

        • In the U.S., very few textbooks have a price printed on the cover (as far as I know, no books that are published in the U.S. as textbooks come with a price printed on the cover). Most textbooks are sold by publishers at what is known as "net price". That means that the publisher lists a price that is what they charge the bookstore not what the end user pays. This often leads to problems when a professor selects a textbook because it is "cheaper" than the one he/she had been using. In most cases the professo
      • Everybody always thinks that the for profit companies charge more for textbooks than the college run bookstores. That is not true, most college run bookstores charge a higher markup than the contractual markup that the for profit companies have (the for profit companies have a contract with the college or university that--among other things--sets the amount of markup the bookstore charges for textbooks over the publisher's price).

        I can't speak for that, since both colleges I attended did not have a college-run bookstore. Both were contracted and run by the parasitic bastards at Follett...

  • by moehoward (668736) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @12:57PM (#29054259)

    Instructor materials and supplements were not included. So, this is basically a setup/joke.

    Traditional textbooks are purchased because of the ancillary material that comes with them. This includes, support, Web sites for both students and instructors, assessment software, assessment preparation material, copious student assignments and solutions, automatic grading software, prepared lecture material, etc.

    I have never seen open textbooks work in a subject area that requires frequent updates, such as fundamental computer concepts, or modern application software (office suites...). I do think, however, open can be somewhat successful solid subjects, such as calculus. Note that I bring up these subject area because a LOT of books are sold in these area. But, even in something like a math course, open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue. That is, students do the assignments or tests and then the solutions are passed on to the next year's students. Publishers do quite a bit of work to change problems. Do not underestimate the amount of work and editing/QA involved in such an effort.

    If you think students are lazy these days, you should see the instructors. They demand new end-of-chapter problems, new quizzes, new tests. And they want it all automatically graded electronically. This can't be delivered by open textbooks.

    • by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:14PM (#29054487) Homepage
      Fundamental computer concepts don't change that often. That's why they are fundamental. Search algorithms haven't changed in 30 years. The languages we write them in has, but most of the stuff in computer science could be taught in pseudo-code, and the assignments could be done in any language. I would have preferred buying a bunch of cheaper open source books plus 5 or 6 programming-language-of-the-day books as a opposed to buying 30 books which weren't open source and didn't really cover anything that has changed in the past 10 years.
    • If you think students are lazy these days, you should see the instructors..

      Maybe that is the real problem...

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      No, but this can be done by most of the major learning management systems, both proprietary (Angel, Blackboard, etc) and open (Sakai, Moodle).

    • by dbrutus (71639)

      K-12 education is generally not subject to a lot of updates and thus would be a better field, I think than college texts. But we don't pay for those textbooks directly, the costs are buried in our property tax bill in the US (where 1/3 of the whole bill often goes to primary/secondary education, the largest single chunk). That doesn't mean that we aren't paying, every year, for the textbook mafia's current stranglehold.

    • Why would "fundamental computer concepts" need to be updated frequently? Is there new and exciting work being done in the field of logical operators and binary arithmetic?

    • by paulsnx2 (453081) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:20PM (#29054563)

      "But, even in something like a math course, open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue. That is, students do the assignments or tests and then the solutions are passed on to the next year's students. Publishers do quite a bit of work to change problems. Do not underestimate the amount of work and editing/QA involved in such an effort."

      This is now an absurd claim, at this point. WolframAlpha returns you the answer to any problem by just typing it in.

      Take for example one I just made up as I was typing this:

      Limit as x -> 0 of (sqrt(sin (x-5)) + tan((y- pi/2)^2)) / x(y-2)^2

      And bingo, it gives the answer, as well as gives the series expansion:

      http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=Limit+as+x+-%3E+0+of+(sqrt(sin+(x-5))+%2B+tan((y-+pi%2F2) [wolframalpha.com]^2))+%2F+x(y-2)^2

      Besides, an Open Textbook can be modified, updated, support the development of new resources, homework sets, etc. by the teachers themselves. So they can leverage the MASSIVE amount of prep work they all do anyway. But with a closed book system, these teachers all have to reinvent the wheel for themselves, as they cannot share their efforts based on a copyrighted book.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Zero. You didn't show your work. Sure, you could probably take that series expansion and work backward into something I might believe you did yourself, but by the time you do all that you might as well just have answered the question yourself. And you're going to fail miserably on the next question, which is short answer.

        Yes, I mark university assignments. No, I really don't care what answer they get.

    • by pmontra (738736)

      Instructor materials and supplements were not included. So, this is basically a setup/joke.
      Traditional textbooks are purchased because of the ancillary material that comes with them. This includes, support, Web sites for both students and instructors, assessment software, assessment preparation material, copious student assignments and solutions, automatic grading software, prepared lecture material, etc.

      (emphasys is mine)

      This is exactly my point. I downloaded CK12's trigonometry book and I've been extreme

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ggurley (958535)

      "I have never seen open textbooks work in a subject area that requires frequent updates, such as fundamental computer concepts, or modern application software (office suites...)."

      Hopefully this will change. I've contributed a lot of my learning materials for OpenOffice.org to the Documentation Project [openoffice.org] (documentation.openoffice.org/conceptualguide) under an open license, including an eBook version of my paperback title [amazon.com] (ISBN 978-0-9778991-6-6), Moodle Course Package complete with quizzes, exa

    • by dcollins (135727)

      "But, even in something like a math course, open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue. That is, students do the assignments or tests and then the solutions are passed on to the next year's students. Publishers do quite a bit of work to change problems. Do not underestimate the amount of work and editing/QA involved in such an effort... If you think students are lazy these days, you should see the instructors. They demand new end-of-chapter problems, new quizzes, new tests. And they want it all automatic

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bcrowell (177657)

      Instructor materials and supplements were not included. So, this is basically a setup/joke.

      Your statement is literally true, but very misleading. The state didn't ask anyone to submit ancillary materials, so even if the ancillary materials exist, you're not going to see them listed on the clrn.org site. As a specific example, I submitted my physics textbook, and my ancillary materials are available here [lightandmatter.com]. They include a test bank, solutions to homework problems, and an instructor's manual.

      This includes, s

    • Traditional textbooks are purchased because of the ancillary material that comes with them. This includes, support, Web sites for both students and instructors, assessment software, assessment preparation material, copious student assignments and solutions, automatic grading software, prepared lecture material, etc.

      So for what do we pay those people who are supposed to instruct our children? What do you call them again? Oh, that's right, teachers. I thought they were supposed to have some responsibility i

    • by Smidge204 (605297)

      "But, even in something like a math course, open textbooks run into the "staleness" issue. That is, students do the assignments or tests and then the solutions are passed on to the next year's students."

      That's odd, because I remember using high school textbooks that were several years old. It was literally to the point where the teacher would certify the condition of each book using something similar to the check-out card in library books.

      Each book was numbered and it was recorded who got what book, and wha

    • by Darinbob (1142669)
      We didn't have calculus when I was in school, and it seemed pretty rare elsewhere since this was considered a first year college course. Even schools that had calculus stopped at derivatives. So I was a bit surprised that this was one of the standard topics. So I guess even in this somewhat "static" field, even that changes every year; as well as the amount of material a student is expected to learn.

      It would make sense to me to just have a more comprehensive book and change the amount of it you teach eac
  • Reference library (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gninnor (792931) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:16PM (#29054507)

    I think it would be great that at the time of graduation a person had an entire electronic library of reference material. This could make it possible, if you are in 8th grade and find that you are rusty on some of the information from last year, just run a search.

  • by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:28PM (#29054683) Homepage

    I was at the symposium where the results were announced, and I wrote up some notes about it here [theassayer.org]. It was actually a pretty interesting panel discussion, with open-source types side by side on the platform along with reps from the publishing industry and the computer hardware industry (which is drooling over the opportunity this represents of selling more computers to schools so they can access electronic books).

    The slashdot summary is not particularly accurate.

    1. It wasn't a competition. Anyone could submit a book, and it wasn't like one had to lose so another could win. The state simply checked submissions to see whether they covered the topics listed in the standard.
    2. "Many traditional publishers submitted textbooks..." I don't think this is true. I believe that only Pearson submitted anything.

    What Pearson submitted was just a consumable biology workbook, so it's not especially surprising that it wasn't judged as developing all the topics on the list.

    The story isn't really that the traditional publishers tried and failed, it's that they essentially sat this one out. Pearson did a half-assed token submission, and the other publisher that had a rep at the symposium, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, didn't submit anything at all. They're clearly highly allergic to the "free" part of "Free Digital Textbook Initiative."

  • by bezenek (958723) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:31PM (#29054729) Journal
    (Side note: A quick reminder: These are K-12 textbooks, not college-level texts.)

    Here are some positive things to think about, which assumes the books will be available electronically--making them easily printable and available from anywhere. These comments come from someone who grew up in a family of K-12 teachers:

    1. Being able to "take a textbook home" without having to carry it will almost certainly lead to more at-home study and better students.

    2. People who choose to do home schooling will benefit from this. And, by using the same texts, there is an opportunity for a smooth transition to/from home schooling.

    3. Schools with budget problems might see a big win here.

    4. The moderate hassle of keeping track of textbooks which are loaned to students each semester/school-year/etc. will be mitigated.

    I am sure there are some others.

    As for the problem of teaching aids, I believe an on-line repository allowing teachers to contribute aids they have developed for themselves for others to use would quickly fill this void. In my experience, K-12 teachers are almost always willing to contribute their efforts to help fellow teachers.

    Todd
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Darinbob (1142669)
      The couple of CK-12 PDFs I looked at would have printed out nicely. But they lackd some some stuff. No side bar table of contents, and the contents at the start of the book was short, and no index. Ie, you had to click on chapter 3, then scroll a lot to get to the problems at the end of that chapter. These were 400 and 800 page books, with 50-75 pages per chapter. There were no chapter headings at the top and bottom of each page to orient you as you flipped through it or jumped to a random page. So, a
  • by WillAdams (45638) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @01:42PM (#29054873) Homepage

    and not line up on the baseline --- look at the CK-12 Calculus textbook (http://cafreetextbooks.ck12.org/math/CK12_Calculus.pdf) --- and of course Arial is the perfect choice for running text and it's perfect appropriate to use Computer Modern for equations in text, but Times and Symbol to label graphs....

    Would someone please teach these people about typography?

    William

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday August 13, 2009 @03:18PM (#29056119) Homepage

    Someone else criticized the typography of the C-12 textbooks. The graphs are worse. I'm reading their "Calculus" book. The axis scales on the graphs tend to be very tiny. You have to zoom way, way in using a PDF viewer to read the axes. At which point the graph lines show serious jaggies. Tables of numeric values are left-aligned, which makes it hard to compare values.

    There's very little motivation. The text just jumps right in, throwing formulas at the kids.

    The language is painful. "Recall that a particular pair of numbers is a solution if direct substitution of the X and Y values into the original equation yields a true equation statement." This is formally correct, but it uses the concept of evaluating an equation as a truth-valued Boolean statement, which is beyond the scope of this text.

    On pages 15-16, the book discusses depreciation. One problem says "Assuming the rate of depreciation of the car is constant..." What they mean is that the price declines linearly (into negative territory?). A "constant rate of depreciation" is usually understood as a constant percentage rate. (The financial community uses "straight line depreciation" to refer to linear depreciation.) This also could have led to a useful discussion of exponentials, compound interest, decay, and inflation, but they don't go there. They change the subject and go on.

    The text assumes that the student has some specific model of graphing calculator, but doesn't say what it is. (Incidentally, the whole course is a PDF file formatted for printing, not HTML with applets, which might be more useful.)

    There's a section on fitting a curve to a set of data. It tells the student what buttons to push on the calculator, but says nothing about what's going on inside.

    The terms "open interval" and "closed interval" are used, but not defined before use. The text also uses capital letters like N to indicate sets of pairs of reals on page 68. This is a confusing usage from more advanced math. I think that some of the theorems were cut and pasted from another source, and don't quite fit the text.

    When the text finally gets to integrals and derivatives, it doesn't start by pointing out that they're inverse operations. Both are presented separately. The text would be better if it started off with a completely graphical presentation of what's going on, instead of starting with derivations.

    This text has all the stuff on the checklist, but presents them incoherently. This is not a good textbook.

"If you want to eat hippopatomus, you've got to pay the freight." -- attributed to an IBM guy, about why IBM software uses so much memory

Working...