The goal for the NO BULLSHIT guide to MATH & PHYSICS was to make a concise textbook that teaches university-level calculus and mechanics in a nice “combined package.” The math fundamentals chapter grew out of the need to introduce the prerequisite material that many students often lack. I didn’t want to be like “y’all should remember this math from high school,” because if you don’t remember the material such comments would not be very helpful. A review of high school math would be more helpful.
Over time, I kept adding and improving the introductory math material in Chapter 1 until it reached the point that it’s a pretty solid little intro to high school math. I was very proud of the fast paced flow of explanations which manages to cover a lot of material (70% of high school math topics) in less than one hundred pages. Many readers also praised this chapter, saying how useful they found it as a review of high school math topics.
Recently I’ve been hearing from several readers who say the intro chapter sucks, and the book sucks, and by extension I suck. If it was one or two reviewers I could have dismissed this feedback, but now I realize there is a clear and consistent message in the readers’ feedback: Chapter 1 sucks as a first contact with math. My effort to “cover” all the high school topics in a fast-paced narrative like in the free mechanics and linear algebra tutorials is probably the worst thing to do for absolute beginners. I can totally understand why a reader who is not familiar at all with sets, algebra, and functions will have a rough time in the opening pages of the book. In the words of a reader, the book “goes from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye,” which might be a good thing for a sports car, but not for a math book. It doesn’t help that I say “anyone can learn math from this book, regardless of their mathematical background” in the marketing copy. I need to do something to fix Chapter 1, and soon.
So what am I going to do about it, then? Write, of course—what else can a writer do? I’m going to prioritize the basicmath project and write the best sequence of introductory math lessons that ever existed! I’ll then use these explanations to beef up Chapter 1 to make it a solid foundation. I think adding 20–40 more pages will be enough, so the book won’t get that much thicker. It’s not just about adding though, I think Chapter 1 could use better organization, flow, and clarity of explanations.
Interestingly, the basicmath project overlaps well with my planned social media campaigns that will push the message “learn math; math is useful,” as well as the math lessons by email. February is gonna be very mathematical!
4 thoughts on “Improving the math chapter”
April 30, 2017 — 4:00 am
Ivan, what is the current state of this basic math project? I really want to see this get some love. I haven’t heard anything in months about the rewrite of the first part of the book, and my copy of the book grows dusty and bitter, like an old woman near retirement who realizes that she picked the wrong career for the wrong reasons. The horror! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sk9zflW6dtU
May 1, 2017 — 9:57 am
Hi Travis. I’ve been traveling for the past two months, but still I manage to put in a few hours every weekend on edits. We’ll probably get to a first release sometime in June. I’ll keep you posted.
February 27, 2018 — 4:10 pm
Still not done yet? I only know of your books and the math better explained series. So I’m still looking to fill the gaps of being a high school math drop out.
Wish blockchains took off and books like yours where already out ten years ago, but better late than never
April 26, 2020 — 8:09 pm
Your book No Bs to Math… is the best book I have read in a long time. Your teaching system and approach is FABULOUS. For example, the analogy of Bruce Lee fighting when resolving an equation is AWESOME.
Request: Can you write a book on programming (Python or Bash/Shell would be ideal) using you unique teaching style?! we need it.