23 May, 2007

The textbook looks applied until you read it

I'm looking around for a new algebra textbook. I really like the old one, but none of the students did, and besides, I think I'd like something with more applications. As I told another professor at one point during the semester, They're learning, but I'm worried that they'll come away thinking that algebra is just a bunch of symbol-pushing. No, I want them to see how it is a kind of problem solving that involves structures (which are general), not symbol manipulation (which is very detailed). It's a forest vs. trees sort of thing, and I'm a trees kind of guy, so I need all the help I can to make them see the forest.

Anyway, a book with the title, Modern Algebra With Applications looked interesting, until I read the first sentence of the introduction.

Algebra can be defined as the manipulation of symbols.

Actually, the textbook does look very applied, and I like some of the applications (switching circuits, transistor grates, crystallographic groups). I'll have to look at it more closely.

By the way, the student evaluations turned out much better than I expected. A student in my calculus class said it was the first math course he took that wasn't boring, and a student in the algebra class said (three times) that I talk to the class. I guess I'm not in danger of being fired yet. :-)

No comments: