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Need help finding an easy-to-follow Algebra textbook
October 9, 2012 7:33 PM   Subscribe

Introductory Algebra Course - book recommendations?

I'm now back in university, after being away for 3 years. Hurray! During my first term back (winter term), I need to take an introductory Algebra course in order to meet a prerequisite for an upper-year Psychology research class. The problem is, I haven't taken any Math classes since high school (so well over 5 years) and it has never really been my forte. No doubt it, this course is making me incredibly nervous. To top it off, the textbook required ("Mathematics with Applications") for the course is supposedly incredibly hard to follow. I'm a big fan of easy-to-read literature, with lots of thorough examples and test questions; but I admit, the reviews about this text sound like it contains anything but.

Here is a gist of what we will cover: linear equations, exponential functions, matrices, system of functions, probability, compound interest.

It's a little early, but I'd like to get my hands on a textbook/resource to make me familiar with some of these concepts before I start the actual class. Is there an introductory algebra book that you liked, and would recommend?
posted by raintree to Education (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The Life of Fred Series.... It's made for kids but is a FABULOUS curriculum. We've been using it for a's very complete but without being boring. Google Polka Dot Publishing and buy from them if you fancy it.
posted by pearlybob at 7:44 PM on October 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Check out khan academy, if you haven't already. There are also a number of free courses available from iTunes U.
posted by empath at 8:01 PM on October 9, 2012

Pearlybob, looking at the Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 from the book series... sounds absolutely witty! I really might order one! Thanks :)
posted by raintree at 8:02 PM on October 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

and depending on how much you want to love math, A Concise Introduction to Pure Mathematics by Liebeck
posted by Acari at 9:22 PM on October 9, 2012

This isn't a textbook, but Steven Strogatz' The Joy of X, based in part on his popular series of New York Times columns, is a very gentle and enjoyable introduction to higher math, and will introduce some of the concepts you'll be wrestling with in algebra.
posted by escabeche at 5:32 AM on October 10, 2012

I second that vote for Khan Academy.
posted by Dansaman at 6:38 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Saxon math and Khan Academy.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:52 AM on October 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, that looks like a nasty long book. I've never understood the penchant for recommending telephone directories for undergraduate courses. They are so much harder to carry around, often seem to be poorly written, poorly edited and poorly bound; jack of all trades and master of none.

I'm afraid it is about 12 years since I looked at a textbook of the sort you need. I can see in my mind's eye one published by Prentice-Hall with shiny paper that I would suggest but I can't remember the authors or the title. Yet in those intervening 12 years I have spent all my working hours putting that mathematics to use and so here are a few more general elements of advice about choosing mathematics textbooks.

If you can, I would recommend flicking through a few textbooks. Different approaches suit different people. Perhaps you can borrow them from the library to see if they would suit you before buying yourself a copy? I usually found 'better' textbooks for my courses by locating the appropriate shelfmark in the library and then looking at all the other titles shelved there. This offers an additional benefit: if you have a weak lecturer who teaches to a text, then it gives you a much-needed different perspective on the subject matter.

Find something that you find attractive, like holding in your hand and actually want to read. You are right to seek out a book with lots of exercises. Getting proficient at mathematics (after one hits a wall, which I hit aged about 14 I guess) just takes practice, practice and yet more practice. So well-structured, interesting and comprehensive exercises with helpful answers and explanations are absolutely vital.

But do persevere: I have no natural talent for mathematics but once I became less stubborn and figured out that I needed to practice lots, my performance improved.

... and if you find yourself needing an introductory statistics book later on (and if you do more psychology, I would expect that you shall), I recommend Statistics at Square One, which appears to be freely available on the BMJ website. Cute little book.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 1:12 PM on October 10, 2012

I'm not sure it will cover everything you need, but Forgotten Algebra is wonderful.
posted by jabes at 9:50 AM on October 11, 2012

Jacobs Elementary Algebra.
posted by wittgenstein at 1:16 PM on October 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

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