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Mathematics for the Liberal Arts (2020) (lumenlearning.com)
56 points by rfreytag 7 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments

I notice that the open book that this course is based on was developed with some relationship to the Washington State community college system.

I wonder if community college systems could save us from the tyranny of expensive commercial text books and their vicious cycle of edition after edition, causing perfectly good used books to not be "relevant" for next year's class.

University professors are probably more incentivised to develop expensive traditionally published textbooks, both to keep up their prestige, and to trade on that prestige.

Community college teachers probably have less natural prestige, and may thereby be more free to focus on student needs than their own.

In any case, I've started reading through this course, and it's fabulous.


Are expensive commercial textbooks an American thing or does it just depend on the university? I studied in the U.K. and I think we weren’t meant to be examined on things that weren’t either on the blackboard or in homework. A few lecturers had written their own books but they weren’t super expensive and no one bought them because the libraries had them and the material went on the blackboard anyway. I also feel like my professors wouldn’t want to teach a course that required an expensive textbook for moral reason, but maybe that’s just me thinking too highly of them.

Expensive textbooks are the norm. Even worse, it's common now to package the book with a key for some online quiz service. You have to buy the brand new $100-200 book to get a valid key, so you can't try to get by with an old edition or share books.

This is really shitty. How do students put up with that?

In college I just didn’t buy textbooks because they were rarely necessary. A few classes (economics in particular) sometimes assigned homework problems in textbooks which would be randomized between editions so I couldn’t get a cheap used version. I just asked a classmate if I could take pictures of the relevant pages and never had a problem.

And how do their professors justify the cost that their choices imply?

Expensive commercial anything is an American thing. Textbooks. Education in general. Medical care. Rent vs income.

Not all American weirdness is unique to America. Eg oftentimes Canada can be similar. Education in the U.K. is still pretty expensive, depending on what one considers the cost to be. Also Americans tend to have higher incomes than other countries so it isn’t necessarily shocking when some things are more expensive.

How many other countries charge for the cost of pretty much any degree, the full salary of an electrical engineer that is several years into their degree? Like literally, if I put every penny into paying my degree off it would take over a year. That seems pretty excessive, when even in the US, you used to be able to work part time at a minimal wage job to pay it all off.

Depends entirely on the professor. Some professors develop their own textbooks and release them for free.


I wrote out a snarky response to the implication that math isn't part of liberal arts, but then looked again at the link...

This is actually a great course: it's math as a liberal art. Great course; odd title.

> odd title

I don’t think so

A (specific) Liberal Art for the (other) Liberal Arts

Looking over the syllabus, this seems like a good selection of subjects that are both mathematically rich and particularly relevant to social issues.

With that being said, what are "Fractals Generated by Complex Numbers" doing here?

Life itself is shaped like a fractal. A study of this geometry is a study of the shape of being. The machine elves will explain in more detail.

Mathematics IS a liberal art!

Yep, as is any science major. Otherwise known as having a "traditional education" at a university level, as opposed to med school or an engineering or vocational program. It's closely linked to the idea of science in itself.

As per Wikipedia [1]:

> Liberal arts education (from Latin liberalis "free" and ars "art or principled practice") is the traditional academic program in Western higher education. Liberal arts generally covers four areas: the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. Its central academic disciplines include physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy, logic, linguistics, literature, history, political science, sociology, psychology, and mathematics.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberal_arts_education

A hilarious book, when counts al-Biruni non-Persian

Don't remember that those days Persia was the half of the world

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