Why are textbooks in math and science so bad?


by kant
Tags: math, science, textbooks
G01
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May3-07, 10:45 AM
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Quote Quote by kant View Post
I am talking about upper and lower division textbook in mathematics and physics. Why are they in geneal so hard to understand, and so low quality anyways? This is not just an attitude for the intellectually inferior, but something i repeat heard from my own professors in mathematics, and physics. It seems for most students, most of the understanding of the material comes from attending the lectures, and taking the notes. A follow up question would then be: Why are the notes are so much better than the books, but yet we have so much more books, and hardly any notes in our libraries? i asked this question before, but i dont think it was the right forum. since only professors write textbooks. I would like to ask the professors out there: Why don t you just give us the notes? Is it too much to ask? Why is it the most of your don t like the textbooks, and do nothing about it?
These text books I consider good quality:
Halliday Resnick& Walker Fundamentals of Physics

Serway Moses & Moyer's Modern Physics

Griffith's- Quantum Mechanics

Stewart's Calculus

Blanchard Devaney & Hall's Differential Equations

I have been pleased with all of these books.
kant
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May3-07, 02:30 PM
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Quote Quote by J77 View Post
And you've spoken to many ?
I got a good sample from ucla.
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May3-07, 02:32 PM
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Quote Quote by mathwonk View Post
i suggest deleting this thread. there is no advice sought here, mostly rants and childish complaining and whining.

i think this topic resonate with other people. In any case, it make very little sense if the whole purpose of coming to a discussion forum is to get information.
kant
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May3-07, 02:44 PM
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Quote Quote by hrc969 View Post
Well maybe thats true for the college you went to. But most of my classes have been such that the professor doesn't follow a book and assign their own problems (
i have never heard this before. All the courses i took, the professors follow the structure, and section strictly, and assign problems from the sections in the book. I would like to know where you go to university.




If you really want to learn a subject you'll put in the time for it.
This is naive opinion. You want to put in more time on a single subject, but this is not always possible consider you have other courses you have to take also. There "is" time presure, and deadlines.



Also you don't need to buy another book there are plenty of books at libraries. I don't know how it work at your school but at mine we can even order books from other libraries (in the same state education system).
My university have the same system, but this is irrevalent. There are plenty of good online books, but having the time, and energy to read it is a different matter. It is just not very practical.
kant
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May3-07, 02:46 PM
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Quote Quote by hrc969 View Post
Actually some of the good books are thought to be too hard for the students used to being spoon fed and hence "easier" books are used even if they aren't that great. But read my previous post for you. Professors usually know quite a number of books that are good for the subject.

Have you ever asked a professor to recommend a book and said that all the books on the subject are bad?

Like Mathwonk said, I think you guys are just whining. If you want to learn , then do it. Its not easy and yeah, it takes up time. But if you are interested in learning that's what you need to do.

There is time constrict, and deadline that factors into the college experience. I would love to read the great american novel, but i don t have time. Besides, even those people doing mathematical research hate to go to the book( dpmms.cam.ac.uk/~twk/Lecture.pdf) i think one of the reason is that the book suck also at the more advance level.
hrc969
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May3-07, 04:42 PM
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Quote Quote by kant View Post
I got a good sample from ucla.
Ever talk to Brent Corbin?

Anyways do you remember any of the professors you talked to. I know the math and physics departments at UCLA very well (I know the math department alot better though).

Do you go to UCLA yourself?
Quote Quote by kant View Post
i think this topic resonate with other people. In any case, it make very little sense if the whole purpose of coming to a discussion forum is to get information.
Yes, it will resonate with a whole bunch of lazy students.

Quote Quote by kant View Post
i have never heard this before. All the courses i took, the professors follow the structure, and section strictly, and assign problems from the sections in the book. I would like to know where you go to university.
I go to UCLA. Like I said before, the pattern that I have noticed is that full professors have more freedom with courses and it depends on what courses you take. I have taken mostly advanced courses. The courses that alot of people take are much more rigid in terms of the syllabus for the course. Of two undergrad classes I am taking right now, 1 of them is the type where the professor does not really follow any book. He assigned his own problems for the quarter (again if you look in books you can find some of them, sometimes with outline sometimes just the statement).
The other is from an assistant professor (non-tenure track), he has complained several times about the syllabus he HAS to follow and having to use the specific book we are using. He's still good about following the syllabus and following the book as you describe that your professors have followed it. I took a topology class last spring from an assistant professor (not sure if tenure track or not) she had to follow the book and did pretty much every sections one after the other again like you have described that all your classes have been like. I took differential geometry two winter quarters ago and the professor (full professor) gave us his own notes. He is a differential geometer so he knows the subject very well. He did not even assign a book. He did however recommend a few books that he liked.

Actually even the very good associate professors that I have had have followed the book (actually here I have only taken one undergrad class with an associate professor). But it was not his subject of expertise and I'm not sure if he was forced to follow any certain syllabus. Some full professors choose to follow the normal syllabus for whatever reasons I won't say anything in specific because I'm not too sure.

But I have acknowledged many times (not here) that I have been very fortunate to have taken the classes that I have taken with the professors that I have taken them. Maybe you haven't been as lucky.

This is naive opinion. You want to put in more time on a single subject, but this is not always possible consider you have other courses you have to take also. There "is" time presure, and deadlines.
Yeah... I know ALL ABOUT TIME PRESSURE. Once I took 28 units in one quarter and was doing research on top of that. I had about 2 midterms per class. Weekly homework for every class. I still managed to study manifold theory on my own that quarter on top of reading lots of different sources on (classical) differential geometry (I was taking the class I mentioned before where the professor gave his own notes and did not assign any book), linear algebra and analysis. Yes having pressure is though. I have been there. But we have to set our priorities straight. For me they are to learn as much mathematics as well as I can for when I go to grad school. For some their priority is "to be a college student" (this is a real quote that I got from one of my classmates). I don't know exactly what that means but that guy seems like a person for who this thread will resonate as you talked about before.

My university have the same system, but this is irrevalent. There are plenty of good online books, but having the time, and energy to read it is a different matter. It is just not very practical.
For every subject I have studied the online books available are nowhere near as good as some of the books I have gotten from the library (and other libraries in the system) or bought if they were books that I particularly liked.

About having time: What I have always thought is that if you really want to do it you will make time. Maybe some people think that putting in the time required to learn is "uncool" (as per a previous comment by you), but that's not a textbook author's problem.
kant
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May3-07, 05:37 PM
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Quote Quote by hrc969 View Post
Ever talk to Brent Corbin?
I actually took physics from him. physics IC. I belief his philosophy of research is " make **** up". I am curious, but how did you do on his exams?



Anyways do you remember any of the professors you talked to. I know the math and physics departments at UCLA very well (I know the math department alot better though).

i don t remember all the names. Do you know edward lee, and ruhal fernadaze( spell error)?


Do you go to UCLA yourself?
Yes.

Yes, it will resonate with a whole bunch of lazy students.
Sorry, but i don t think i am lazy. We had to take a complex analysis course, and the book was written by a ucla mathematician. The book suck, and i had to attend the lectures to understand it.


But we have to set our priorities straight. For me they are to learn as much mathematics as well as I can for when I go to grad school. For some their priority is "to be a college student" (this is a real quote that I got from one of my classmates). I don't know exactly what that means but that guy seems like a person for who this thread will resonate as you talked about before.
I don t know what planet you come from, but i would presume that most people( mathematician, and physicist etc) think the book from there discipline sucK also.



For every subject I have studied the online books available are nowhere near as good as some of the books I have gotten from the library (and other libraries in the system) or bought if they were books that I particularly liked
.

Books at powell, or the books at the math and science library? do you know the call number?
About having time: What I have always thought is that if you really want to do it you will make time. Maybe some people think that putting in the time required to learn is "uncool" (as per a previous comment by you), but that's not a textbook author's problem.

May i ask how much you study in a day? Well, maybe we can get together
morphism
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May3-07, 08:28 PM
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Quote Quote by kant View Post
Sorry, but i don t think i am lazy. We had to take a complex analysis course, and the book was written by a ucla mathematician. The book suck, and i had to attend the lectures to understand it.
Tragic.

I don t know what planet you come from, but i would presume that most people( mathematician, and physicist etc) think the book from there discipline sucK also.
Don't.
kant
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May3-07, 09:47 PM
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Quote Quote by morphism View Post
Tragic.


Don't.
The tragic thing is people like you that don t think.
hrc969
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May3-07, 10:57 PM
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Quote Quote by kant View Post
I actually took physics from him. physics IC. I belief his philosophy of research is " make **** up". I am curious, but how did you do on his exams?
Well I never took a class from him. I was in a few workshops that he ran though. He talked to me about his whole philosophy on exams and I'm sure I would have been in the B/B- range. How did you do?

i don t remember all the names. Do you know edward lee, and ruhal fernadaze( spell error)?
All I know about Edward Lee is that he's an assistant professor (from VIGRE). Rahul I know a bit more (he still owes me a second part of some Riemannian Geometry notes). He got his PHD from UCLA last year. But if you took classes from them notice that they are assistant professors, not even tenure track. They have no freedom with the course. They can't pick the book they like they can't prove the things they want to prove (or at least are not supposed too), unless of course its something that's on the syllabus.

Sorry, but i don t think i am lazy. We had to take a complex analysis course, and the book was written by a ucla mathematician. The book suck, and i had to attend the lectures to understand it.
Yes I know that book very very well. Its not my favorite but it does not suck and is not a bad book.

I don t know what planet you come from, but i would presume that most people( mathematician, and physicist etc) think the book from there discipline sucK also.
I would like for you to put a number on the many professors who have said that the books in their discipline suck.

Books at powell, or the books at the math and science library? do you know the call number?
I usually get my books from boelter sometimes from the chemistry library. Powell is pretty useless when it comes to getting books on more advanced subjects.

Anyways if you tell me what classes you are taking I can recommend a few books. (Just say what number course it is).


May i ask how much you study in a day? Well, maybe we can get together
Well, I don't study as much as I did last quarter (16 hrs/day on weekdays). I guess its around 10-12 a day now. (This is including attending 6 lectures) So I guess 4-6 hours per day of studying outside class MWF. Tuesday and thursday the full 10-12.
If you PM your schedule we can figure out if I could help you out a bit.
kant
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May4-07, 12:34 AM
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Quote Quote by hrc969 View Post
Well I never took a class from him. I was in a few workshops that he ran though. He talked to me about his whole philosophy on exams and I'm sure I would have been in the B/B- range. How did you do?
what quarter is this? Did you take him last quarter?


All I know about Edward Lee is that he's an assistant professor (from VIGRE). Rahul I know a bit more (he still owes me a second part of some Riemannian Geometry notes). He got his PHD from UCLA last year. But if you took classes from them notice that they are assistant professors, not even tenure track. They have no freedom with the course. They can't pick the book they like they can't prove the things they want to prove (or at least are not supposed too), unless of course its something that's on the syllabus.
Sure, but what is the point. People don t really have that many opinions. They offer honors classes, but rearly for the classes i want to take in the quarter.

Yes I know that book very very well. Its not my favorite but it does not suck and is not a bad book.
The complex analysis book suck.



I would like for you to put a number on the many professors who have said that the books in their discipline suck.
Have you looked at the link the guy on page two posted in this thread? You want names. ok. People like edward lee, corbin, and ruhal, and some graducate student that hangs out with ruhal admit that the books in math and science are mostly bad. There are others.


I
usually get my books from boelter sometimes from the chemistry library. Powell is pretty useless when it comes to getting books on more advanced subjects.
There is a chemistry library at ucla? Do you mean the math, and engineering library?



Anyways if you tell me what classes you are taking I can recommend a few books. (Just say what number course it is).
131A ?


Well, I don't study as much as I did last quarter (16 hrs/day on weekdays). I guess its around 10-12 a day now. (This is including attending 6 lectures) So I guess 4-6 hours per day of studying outside class MWF. Tuesday and thursday the full 10-12.
If you PM your schedule we can figure out if I could help you out a bit.

I don t know why i would do that, but in anycase, where do you usually study? I live on campus( at hedrick summit).
Do you usually study in the math and engineering library? Are you asian, indian, or white?
hrc969
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May4-07, 01:46 AM
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Quote Quote by kant View Post
what quarter is this? Did you take him last quarter?
Oh, no this was winter and spring quarters of 05.

Anyways my point was that he once told me that he did not like using Halliday and Resnick (spelling?) because he liked to take problem out of there and rather use the regular book. The point is sometimes the good books are harder

Sure, but what is the point. People don t really have that many opinions. They offer honors classes, but rearly for the classes i want to take in the quarter.
That's why you need to plan out your schedules properly. I never ran into any sort of scheduling problem like this because I planned my schedule well ahead of time. If there was some conflict I could not get around I would change my plans accordingly. For example, is there any reason you could not wait for the honors version of 131AB next year. A full professor almost always teaches the honors. In my opinion that's way better than taking it from someone like Rahul who is not an expert (he just got his PHD last year). I have nothing against him though.


The complex analysis book suck.
Can you give any specific criticisms. Like I said I know that book very well. I used it for math 132 with professor Mess (ever heard of him?) and for one quarter of the graduate level complex analysis taught by Gamelin (the author of the book). I know some very fair criticisms of the book but they do not qualify it as a bad book. I'll see if yours are the same or similar and then will post them.


Have you looked at the link the guy on page two posted in this thread?
The thing on praising lectures? Well, all I have to say is that something you want to learn is not always offered as a course but a textbook available not matter what quarter it is. For example, I wanted to learn complex analysis in several variables (usually called Several Complex Variables) Its not being offered this year. One of my professor's told me that it probably would not be offered at all in the near future or maybe ever. So I did a reading course on the subject. I still had a professor to ask questions to but I was primarily on my own. With the book and me. The book is pretty good but there a very serious flaw that a lazy student would not be able to overcome. This was that sometimes statements of theorems made no sense as stated or giving exercises where the statement was false. however some small modification of the statement makes it correct. This kind of stuff was all over. I doubt you have had a book like that one. Yet I thought the book was great. There was a lot of exposition, I was forced to think about what was going on. This again comes to what someone mentioned before about students wanting to be spoon fed. We can't expect a book to contain all details and everything explained fully. I don't think that would produce many good mathematicians.

You want names. ok. People like edward lee, corbin, and ruhal, and some graducate student that hangs out with ruhal admit that the books in math and science are mostly bad. There are others.
No I said I wanted numbers because the professors I have talked to always seem to find books they like. Sure no one is going to like every single book that has been written. But the point is that you can always find good books. I'm really surprised corbin would say that books are mostly bad. But maybe... I guess it makes sense, he has a very different philosophy that most other professors. Did he follow the book in his class? Did he give problems from the book?


There is a chemistry library at ucla? Do you mean the math, and engineering library?
There is no math and engineering library. There are 3 science and engineering libraries, on in the Geology building one in the chemitry building (Young) and one in Boelter. Most of the math books are in Boelter but occasionally there are some good ones at the chemistry one (and very rarely in the geology one)

131A ?
From Rahul?
Anyways when I took Math 131AH and BH the book assigned was Undergraduate Analysis by Serge Lang. It was a pretty good book. You probably would not describe it as dry. I don't know much about the book that you guys are using though.



I don t know why i would do that,
What? Study alot? Well a reason would be if you wanted to learn and it takes time to do it.
but in anycase, where do you usually study? I live on campus( at hedrick summit).
I usually study at home (about 1 hour from UCLA by bus)
Do you usually study in the math and engineering library?
I am usually outside Boelter around 7:30 and stay there until 9 or 10.

Are you asian, indian, or white?
Does it matter? I am curious as to why you would ask this? Anyways I am not asian, indian or white.
fourier jr
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May4-07, 02:01 AM
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Quote Quote by raolduke View Post
I really don't like texts written now because they try to make everyone feel included racially and sexually.
lol I think I remember Hardy writing in a preface to his Course of Pure Math text that in a previous edition he wrote like "a missionary talking to savages". I doubt that an author would be able to get away with a comment like that today!
kant
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May4-07, 02:09 AM
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Quote Quote by hrc969 View Post
Oh, no this was winter and spring quarters of 05.

Anyways my point was that he once told me that he did not like using Halliday and Resnick (spelling?) because he liked to take problem out of there and rather use the regular book. The point is sometimes the good books are harder
Well, he told me most undergrad physics books are bad in his office hours.

That's why you need to plan out your schedules properly. I never ran into any sort of scheduling problem like this because I planned my schedule well ahead of time. If there was some conflict I could not get around I would change my plans accordingly. For example, is there any reason you could not wait for the honors version of 131AB next year. A full professor almost always teaches the honors. In my opinion that's way better than taking it from someone like Rahul who is not an expert (he just got his PHD last year). I have nothing against him though.

I have to think about it.
Can you give any specific criticisms. Like I said I know that book very well. I used it for math 132 with professor Mess (ever heard of him?)

The guy with the long hair? Does he life alone, because he seems really sad.

and for one quarter of the graduate level complex analysis taught by Gamelin (the author of the book). I know some very fair criticisms of the book but they do not qualify it as a bad book. I'll see if yours are the same or similar and then will post them.
I don t understand the material without attending the lecture. At one time, i had to read it for 6 hours just getting thr the section. The style of the book is utter unacceptable.

No I said I wanted numbers because the professors I have talked to always seem to find books they like. Sure no one is going to like every single book that has been written. But the point is that you can always find good books. I'm really surprised corbin would say that books are mostly bad. But maybe... I guess it makes sense, he has a very different philosophy that most other professors.

I guess we are back to step. You say there are many good books. I say there is not enough time. you say "you can make time if you want to learn".

Did he follow the book in his class? Did he give problems from the book?
yes.
There is no math and engineering library.
What do you call the one at boelters(floor 8)? Next time you go there, take a pencil. The name is marked on the pencil to remind people where they are.




Does it matter? I am curious as to why you would ask this? Anyways I am not asian, indian or white.
Are you persian? Perhaps you are jewish? I ask because i am curious. i want to know who i am talking to especially someone that might be a class room away from me.
J77
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May4-07, 02:44 AM
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Quote Quote by kant View Post
Are you persian? Perhaps you are jewish? I ask because i am curious. i want to know who i am talking to especially someone that might be a class room away from me.
Perhaps it would help if he had two heads?

kant, if you spent as much time reading a book as you've done *****ing on this thread you may start to learn something!
kant
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May4-07, 03:12 AM
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Quote Quote by J77 View Post
Perhaps it would help if he had two heads?

kant, if you spent as much time reading a book as you've done *****ing on this thread you may start to learn something!

You are not vey nice, and frankly my study habits is none of your ****ing concern. Maybe you should take your own advice, and stop hopping around this place. You made more post than me.
hrc969
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May4-07, 10:22 AM
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Quote Quote by kant View Post
The guy with the long hair? Does he life alone, because he seems really sad.
Well, I think he's one of the best professors I have had. That's the hardest undergrad class I have had. Many people are scared to take him but for anyone who wants to learn a subject well, thats the guy you want to take the class from. Incidentally he had no complaints about the book. Some people complain about introducing the idea of a riemann surface but he liked that topic. Maybe the problem with that book is that its more suited for grad students than undergrads. When I took 246A (gradute complex analysis) the TA said that it was a good book for grad students and probably should not be used for undergrad. The problem is that a lot undergrads don't want to work hard enough to understand something. They want a book which tell them how to do every problem. They don't want to spend time struggling to learn. I think the struggle is a good thing. I don't know if I should say its neccessary although I would be inclined to think so. One of my professors recommended that we look at "old" book. Books about a subject that where written before it was completely developed because that way we can see the struggle and be able to understand the subject at a deeper level.


I don't understand the material without attending the lecture.
That's fine. I always go to lecture, it helps for understanding but it is not absolutely neccessary. Learning from a book is possible you just have to find a book you like (or several) and commit time to learning the subject.

At one time, i had to read it for 6 hours just getting thr the section.
That's fine. Spending alot of time on a certain topic, struggling through it helps you learn better than rushing through it.
I spent since winter 06 to the end of summer 06 (so around 9 months) reading the first chapter of several books on manifold theory. It took all of the winter quarter to get through the first few pages and I still did not get it to where I was satisfied. I would pick up one book and not be able to get thorugh the first few pages satisfactorily and pick up another one and another one. I spent much more that 6 measly hours trying to understand it.
When I took Manifold Theory (225A) last fall (fall 06), some of the undergrad students used to think it was really hard and wondered why I did not find it as hard. The answer is what I just told you. I struggled with it for a really long time, when I went to lecture everything he said I had seen and it made alot more sense to me than to some of the other undergrads who also went to lecture but had not seen the material before.
The style of the book is utter unacceptable.
What kind of style do you prefer?

I guess we are back to step. You say there are many good books. I say there is not enough time. you say "you can make time if you want to learn".
Yes and I stand by what I say.

What do you call the one at boelters(floor 8)? Next time you go there, take a pencil. The name is marked on the pencil to remind people where they are.
http://www2.library.ucla.edu/libraries/533.cfm
That's the list of libraries at UCLA. The one you are thinking of is the Science and Engineering Library(SEL). The one in boelter is the Engineering and Mathematical Sciences Collection part of the Science and Engineering Library.

I guess you are not too incorrect in calling it that although that is not the proper name.


Are you persian? Perhaps you are jewish? I ask because i am curious. i want to know who i am talking to especially someone that might be a class room away from me.
I know a pretty good persian student whose been a classmate of mine for three years now. But no. Why isn't hispanic or latino an option? I don't know what to think of your ommision of that as an option. It would have just been better to ask what my race is rather than making attempts to guess based on (who knows what). But anyways, I am mexican.

What I am really curious about is knowing why you named the races that you did in that order.

Oh and just to add to the recommendation of books for 131A, one of my favorite analysis books (probably my favorite) is Basic Analysis by Anthony W. Knapp. I always go to that book first if I need to recall anything from analysis.
las3rjock
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May4-07, 10:38 AM
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Quote Quote by kant View Post
frankly my study habits is none of your ****ing concern.
As thus we have reached the heart of the matter. Ultimately you are responsible for your own learning, but you seem unwilling or unable to put in the time or find the resources required to understand the material, and apparently you are trying to shift the blame from yourself to the textbooks. Evidently you couldn't even be bothered to read the 7-page essay that I linked, because you seem to be waving around as evidence that textbooks suck, when nothing could be farther from the truth. The main point of the essay is that lectures and textbooks each have distinct and valuable roles in education. Korner points out that textbooks tend to be more complete, more reliable, and have better explanations than lectures (on page 2, he writes that "everything done in the lecture is better done in the textbooks"), but lectures have value both as a guide to reading a textbook, and as an opportunity to watch an expert at work. But not matter what, learning requires that you put in the necessary work. If it takes 6 hours to understand a portion of a textbook, it doesn't necessarily mean that the textbook is badly written--it just means that it required 6 hours for you to grasp or internalize that particular concept. Reading a textbook is different than reading a novel. As you read a textbook, you should be making mental or written notes of key concepts, thinking of examples/counterexamples that demonstrate concepts, filling in the omitted steps of proofs and derivations, and/or solving simple problems to get practice using the concepts. Clearly that is quite a bit of work, but if you are unwilling to put in the amount of work necessary for you to learn the material, then you are wasting everyone's time, especially your own.


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