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Illustrated Calculus Textbook (upenn.edu)
131 points by iwwr on July 4, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments

It's like a lot of other calculus books I have, only polychromatic, difficult to read, and gives me this slightly creepy face every now and then. I mean, it seems solid, but it's just really hard to read.

Really, my favorite gentle calculus textbook has been one I recently was Thompson's "Calculus Made Easy." The way it's written is informal by the standards of when it was written, but to a modern eye reads like your whimsical grandpa decided to bust out a pipe, an expensive brandy, and serious calc knowledge.

This isn’t really a book but rather lecture notes. That’s what students see as the lectures are being written on a tablet. Usually, what’s said is just as important as what’s written, so it’s not surprising that it may be hard to read if you go too fast.

I saw him do this a couple of years ago and it inspired me to try it myself. My handwriting isn’t nearly as good as his so I have to transcribe the lectures into TeX. Here’s Calc1 http://inperc.com/wiki/index.php?title=Calculus_1:_course, unfinished.

One of my favourites is Hiroyuki Kojima's "Manga Guide to Calculus" (http://nostarch.com/mg_calculus.htm). It probably can't get much more informal and it's actually quite entertaining.

It somehow manages a decent balance of being fun without slipping into being trivial.

Someone anonymously sent me a copy of this. I still don't know who. Was it you? :)

Nope. Quite odd. :)

The idea of presenting calculus visually is certainly a good one, but this is useless for anyone other than the author. The point of illustrations is to enhance the material and this is just plain unreadable.

Here is an interesting project that is far more successful at math illustration and shows some promise:


I don't know, the anthropomorphic lemon saying "easy peasy" enhanced it greatly for me.

(Seriously, there's a certain great charm to these sorts of things that make them strangely appealing to certain people, like me. It might not be great for learning, but it's awesome as entertainment.)

It's certainly fun to look at, but I'd have a hard time following any of the mathematics.

What I'd like to see is an online calculus book which takes advantage of interactive animations and graphing to demonstrate how things like integrals and derivatives work. For example, for the limit-based definition of derivatives, you could concoct an animation showing how the math works as deltaX goes to 0, and so on.

There's also clever ways of demonstrating the product rule through geometry that make the math make so much more sense. There's a lot of potential in interactive, graphical textbooks that has yet to be explored, I think.

<i>"this is useless for anyone other than the author"</i>

I thought we had gone over this: EVERYBODY LEARNS MATHEMATICS DIFFERENTLY :)

This book is useless for you and wonderful for me.

Ow, my eyes.

I love the idea but it's very hard to read.

White space does wonders for readability.

That's a lesson a lot of us in mathematics have trouble learning. We have this tendency to try to maximize information density, viewing empty space as inefficient because there's "nothing" there, when in reality the space communicates separation and therefore actually does contain vital information.

It looks like a good idea.

On a side note, I fully agree with Conrad Wolphram that basic calculus is conceptually rather easy to grasp and use on daily basis, but the focus on calculations by hand makes the subject completely inaccessible.

http://www.ted.com/talks/conrad_wolfram_teaching_kids_real_m... http://www.computerbasedmath.org/

It's a great idea worth spreading.

I imagine something like this would would have happened if the unabomber was really into maths.

I love the idea of this book and its humour, but it is quite hard to comprehend. I can actually see maths' popularity increasing as people begin to see it as a useful hobby, especially those who are learning programming.

I would willing to pay for lessons if learning maths didn't have to involve a dense textbook, but instead could graphically demonstrate the theory (think 3D modelling, moving sine waves etc.) and explain all the underlying concepts that were glossed over in formal education.

Videos or apps like this would be a great help to me, especially if it managed to retain this author's irreverence, Sal Khan's presentation style, but placing more importance on rehearsed & polished lessons, 3d animation and beautifully set typography.

Anyone know any resources that are along these lines?

I imagine something like this would would have happened if the unabomber was really into maths.

"In late 1967, Kaczynski became an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught undergraduate courses in geometry and calculus. He was also noted as the youngest professor ever hired by the university. This position proved short-lived, as Kaczynski received numerous complaints and low ratings from the undergraduates he taught. Many students noted that he seemed quite uncomfortable in a teaching environment, often stuttering and mumbling during lectures, becoming excessively nervous in front of a class, and ignoring students during designated office hours. Without explanation, he resigned from his position in 1969, at age 26. The chairman of the mathematics department, J. W. Addison, called this a "sudden and unexpected" resignation,[18] while vice chairman Calvin Moore said that given Kaczynski's "impressive" thesis and record of publications, "He could have advanced up the ranks and been a senior member of the faculty today."


Actually, Ted Kaczynski was a mathematician.

Calculus For Serial Killers

It's really difficult to follow, not the Maths, the graphics. Which part of the page is the most important thing to understand? Even, just what order are the sentences intended to be read in? Lucky it's not handwritten, he could just change the font...

I like the concept and am interested into how much time you spent on the project so far, when do you expect to be completed? Is this the first textbook that you wrote?

I like the graphics, but your font is very difficult to read for extended periods, it is best used as a headliner at most. I understand your desire for a distinctive look, but readability is most important for a textbook. Also the pages appear to me as too cluttered. Think about it as a PowerPoint presentation with 50 million bullet points, there's a point of diminishing returns. Spread the information, users won't mind the additional pages.

I look forward to seeing this completed.

This may work with narration but the text in itself ,at least for me, is completely useless.

I think other attempts from "Manga Guide" series and even the "Transnational College of LEX" series are far more effective than this one.

This is fun to look at; if he spaced things out some more, it would be easier to read. Then again, it might lose some of its chaotic/stylized charm.

Anyone else having trouble comprehending the text?

yups, read it slowly and you will understand.

Ghrist is a brilliant guy. He does his presentations at conferences in exactly the same style and it is brilliant. He has a framework of notes that he scrolls through, but as he is speaking he will fill in parts of overall picture with sketches. He is one of the few speakers that can make technical topics both interesting and intuitive.

The approach certainly has merit - in the sense of making math seem less serious and more fun. We need more of this approach!

Execution needs work though. Way too cluttered and dense. I would move more slowly and make sure 1 concept is put totally to bed before moving onto the next one.

I'm taking Calculus 2 next semester and I was hoping this would be a good source to study from. I appreciate the fact that the information is condensed to exactly what a person needs to know to solve the problem, but the text is unreadable. This is wasted potential...

I have a horrible attention span for math nowadays but found the whole first chapter a pleasant read. Different strokes for different folks and all that. It could be a little better spaced out and what not, but this is a great refresher.

Actually I found this very easy to read & follow, maybe because my own note-taking is very similar to this -a total chaos and pictures all around.

I like the notes.It makes it easier to grab the concepts. After going through notes i will dig deeper in the concepts. Than kyou for the post

I'm not sure how easy it is to learn something new from those notes, but they are probably the greatest calculus refresher I've seen so far.

Come to think of it, my first calculus book (back in the 70s) was a comic book--"Prof. E McSquared's Calculus Primer"

Highly recommended.

This book is actually very easy for me to read. This may explain why I never got along with my calculus teachers.

I like this. I think it derive's a bit from Khan's Academy in that it tries to make it look casual and fun.

Why's (Poignant) Guide to Calculus

It's not the same without the foxes and the soundtrack.

Seriously, though, this might be a good idea, but it desperately needs improving. I shouldn't have to catch myself thinking about typography so often while reading a Math textbook.

This is cool :)

Any estimate on when it will be complete?

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