Maths books that focus on the application of the maths concept?
March 2, 2008 11:50 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend maths books that emphasize the application of the concept being taught?

I am looking for maths books of any level from basic algebra to undergraduate studies.

Nearly every maths book I've looked at uses the following method:

"Here is a maths concept. We'll go over it, drill you on it, spend lots of time on it. Then after you really know it, we'll throw in an example or two for what this can be used for."

I'm looking for a maths book that uses the following method instead:

"Here is a problem that you might have in everyday life, or in a certain occupation. Now we'll show you how we can solve this. Then we will drill you on it by having you solve a bunch of other real problems with this concept."

When I was little, I had a great educational comic book. It was about a futuristic spaceship, and as the story went along, the crew kept running into problems that needed to be solved with maths. I would love to find something like that at a higher level, but perhaps that is asking too much.
posted by giggleknickers to Education (6 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite sells math skill builder books.
posted by plokent at 12:39 AM on March 3, 2008

I can't speak from personal experience but when Danica McKellar was on Fresh Air she claimed that her book, Math Doesn't Suck focuses on real world application. Also - not a book, but Mathnet.
posted by samsarah at 2:55 AM on March 3, 2008

I think How to Ace Calculus: A Streetwise Guide is exactly the kind of book you're looking for.
posted by dseaton at 6:25 AM on March 3, 2008

Beware that some supplemental maths books assume you are desperate, so offer bare formula with drill. Some attractive supplemental books conveniently skim the topics that are most troublesome.

Hence, I recommend you rummage for a used textbook, that catches your eye. Recent Glencoe mathematics books start every daily section with a page of "When am I ever going to use this?" McDougal Littel books have a continuing problem-based style, and are often freely read online with registration. Its "Integrated Math" (US) series overtly link with week-long science, finance, medicine, and other applications while not skimping mathematics topics.

Some maths topics are like foundation bricks and pipes. Frankly, there exists no uncontrived application until you build upon the foundation! Hence, a successful maths student tolerates occasional lack of application at least as a game. The rules sometimes have no apparent practical basis but do model consistency. Sometimes, useless stuff is fun.
posted by gregoreo at 6:51 AM on March 3, 2008

You would probably like textbooks on mathematical physics, mathematical biology, mathematics of engineering, etc. Ask some professors at your school which books they use to teach these courses.

You should never have to be in doubt as to why some abstract concept is part of the curriculum; just ask your instructor. Such questions will likely lead to a research project. WIN.
posted by proj08 at 7:44 AM on March 3, 2008

If you get up to Calculus there are many textbooks that offer tons of application. It's a big selling point for those books, as they're meant to appeal to engineering majors (among others) who need to see apps. Ask any undergraduate math or engineering professor and they'll happily unload one of the many free calc books they've been given to consider but not chosen. I usually give 2 or 3 to anyone who asks for 1 to clear off space on my shelf. Just don't offer to buy it off them, as it's a moral issue for some.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:53 AM on March 3, 2008

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