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A Transition To Advanced Mathematics by Douglas Smith

  1. Jan 16, 2009 #1
    OK. I'm scared... this is the book I just got that one of my classes is using, and, reading the reviews on amazon ... well, you be the judge. I've never seen so many 1 star reviews for a textbook:


    Has anyone used it? (this is the Smith one; there is another one by the same name but different author that seems quite popular... I don't understand why my school didn't go with that one. plus: cheaper.)

    is it as bad as these reviewers make it sound? I'm not particularly good at math; I'm taking math classes because I enjoy learning about it, but I definitely don't think I have the brain muscle to pull through what I imagine is an already difficult class with what seems like a very poor textbook.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2009 #2
    I agree the reviews don't look too appealing, but I've found a few things to be true regarding mathematic course/book assessments.

    1: Many of the people giving reviews are just angry because math is hard and they got a bad grade, generally from their own lack of work.

    2: Mathematics students, out of intellectual arrogance, love to claim every concept is "trivial," every exam was "worthlessly easy," and every textbook is riddled with errors and lacking in mathematical errors.

    I'm partly joking, but I've found little correlation (variance in both directions) between textbook reviews and my own opinions when it involves mathematics.
  4. Jan 16, 2009 #3
    that may be; I've noticed that the error the one reader cites (the book presenting 1+2=3 as false) is in fact an error of his own in interpreting the statement in the book, which does bring up into question how reliable his statement about the book being filled with errors is, and whether he put any effort in his reading.

    I'm only into chapter 1.2 (I'm speeding a bit through the first chapter because I missed the first 2 weeks of class), but so far the author comes off as pretty clear.
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2009
  5. Jan 16, 2009 #4
    the quality of the textbook is moot considering you've already set yourself up for failure. unless there are problems assigned from the textbook you don't need to use it. go get a different one.

    like this one:

    or this one:
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  6. Jan 16, 2009 #5
    OK, sorry if it came out that way -- I hate self-pity and moping as much as the next guy :biggrin: -- I'm not putting myself down or setting myself up for failure; I'm just being realistic about the fact that I'm not fluent enough with math to be able to pull through without a good textbook. Part of it is that I was first introduced to algebra and pre-calc about a a year and a half ago at the age of 19-20, so I haven't had much time to practice the skills involved.

    I'm not saying I'm terrible at math; judging by my marks and by other student's questions and frustrations, I'm not doing bad at all, but I need a good text or I'm lost... maybe I have a warped view of what "good at math" means, but there's those kids in class who finish the tests in 30 minutes and make it seem so easy.

    I spent like an hour the other day trying to figure out a proof for the sum of integers formula ( n(n+1) / 2 ), and couldn't do it when it was staring at me right in the face the whole time... I can understand an explanation and the logic behind it, but I can't always make the jump from one idea to the next on my own; the sort of skill that I observe in good mathematicians.

    Either way, so far for the first chapter at least, the book is quite good, so no complaints.
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2009
  7. Jan 17, 2009 #6

    I know exactly where you're coming from. I returned to school to study math at age 29. My last math course was a pre-ALGEBRA course in high school. lol I jumped in with Calc II and Calc III and got a good realization of how far behind I am on the process of mathematical thought.

    As far as the "skill" that you're talking about for making jumps, I think it is largely a process of spending time with the math. It really is a whole new language that needs to be learned "fluently."

    I find that I make my best progress long after I've "learned" the concepts. Just tonight I was laying in bed and the formula for computing angles by dot product finally "came to me" as a whole concept.

    I've known and used the formula many times, but it was just numbers and symbols. Once I made the realization that I can get a good estimation of the angle by realizing how to use the dot product over magnitude as a fraction of 0 to 1, it turned in to a concept I know instead of a formula I use all the time. Sometimes that process happens quick (cross product and directional derivative came right away, for some reason) and sometimes I'm stuck plugging numbers for half a semester before I realize what I'm "really" doing.

    Just about every concept that I've been able to "make my own" has come about in a similar manner....so I'm hoping that will continue....because it sure makes things easier. lol

    Math is hard, the students that major in math are smart....and when you're already behind the 8-ball, it can be frustrating. But it's definitely the most rewarding of the subject area (at least for me) when I finally "really" get a concept.

    I just realized I'm the "annoying" guy using "quotations" on every "other" word for "emphasis" in my "post." Sorry, it's late.
  8. Jan 17, 2009 #7
    It's pretty "meh" in my opinion. I didn't use it much when I had it. I mainly listened to my instructor who used the book very loosely (at times problems were not even assigned from the book because the book was so vastly different than what she was trying to teach.)

    I guess my opinion isn't very useful, as my college used the book for a course that really doesn't match the book.

    I wouldn't call it a bad text book, but I wouldn't call it good either. Overall, I was disappointed after the first two chapters on how little use it was in my transition class.
  9. Feb 2, 2009 #8
    Does anyone know of a solutions manual to the text? I find that the solutions they give in the back are for more of the simpler problems and I am so unsure when I am studying if I am doing the other problems correctly.
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