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Before Solution Manuals

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

So today my teacher was talking about how when he was going to school they just started coming out with solution manuals and answers to selected problems in the back of books. I'm really curious how much harder the math and science programs were when these were not around. Knowing now that those weren't around at some point makes me feel like an unworthy student. I don't think I would've passed to this point without references to check my work and practice with.

How the heck did people pass without them? Maybe it would be better in the long run for me without them but the amount of work I would have to do would be tremendous. Makes me kinda wonder if I'm really cut out to be an engineer if I need to check my work. 0.o
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
fss
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I don't recall ever really checking my work against a solution manual; perhaps back in high school in those big survey texts with numerical (hah!) answers. Every time I was unsure I'd re-read the problem, made sure my answer made sense, then either moved on or checked with a friend.

Even today they're by no means "necessary."
 
  • #3
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I've never used them for math, but I have used them for engineering courses sparingly (Only about 3 lower level course) when I was simply short on time. Do I feel bad? Yes sometimes I do, but I never have used them in an upper level class or especially in a class I was genuinely interested.

I don't think it makes one less of an engineer, its simply an aid and can be used for good if used wisely.
 
  • #4
They're not necessary. They're just helpful. My intro physics book is a good example. Just knowing I got the answer wrong doesn't help me discover how to correct it.
 
  • #5
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Just knowing I got the answer wrong doesn't help me discover how to correct it.
But it lets you know you need to correct it. There's nothing wrong with checking your answers. If you work a problem, you need positive reinforcement that what you did is correct, especially when you have a lot of material to cover.
 
  • #6
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There are answers in the backs of books?!?
 
  • #7
AlephZero
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How the heck did people pass without them? Maybe it would be better in the long run for me without them but the amount of work I would have to do would be tremendous.
You have to understand that the whole attitude to education was different back then. Nobody had the modern (and nonsense, IMO) idea that "everybody is capable of being a success at anything". The only people who got into "higher" education were the people who could hack it.

You might also consider that when I was doing school work (back in the 1960s) there were NO calculators or personal computers. If you hadn't learned how to do arithmetic quickly and accurately with just a pencil and paper at age 11, you would never have got into the sort of classes you are talking about.

Oh, and we didn't have modular courses and bite-sized continuous assessment tests either. You did 3 years study and then took six 3-hour exams, two a day for three consecutive days. That way, you got tested on whether you had LEARNED stuff, not whether you could remember something for a week and forget it just as quickly.
 
  • #8
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So, then you're saying many us don't deserve our degrees.
 
  • #9
AlephZero
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So, then you're saying many us don't deserve our degrees.
I'm not saying that at all. You didn't have any choice as to when and where you were born, and what education system you have to work with. Just get the best out of whatever is avaialble to you.

What I am saying is that the current secondary and higher education system (i.e. from about age 12 upwards), at least in the UK which is what I'm most familiar with, is so completely different from what it was 40 years ago there is hardly anything that can be compared between then and now.

Im not saying the old system which selected the "top 25%" by competitive exams at age 11, and where only about 10% went on to any kind of university education, was better or worse than today. But it sure meant that those who DID find themselves in the top streams of the old system got stretched a lot more than most of today's students.

Incidentally the financing was also completely different. Getting a Cambridge (UK) maths degree cost me and my family precisely zero, in both tuition fees and living costs. And that meant there was a lot more genuine social mobility back then than there is now, of course.
 
  • #10
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Oh, and we didn't have modular courses and bite-sized continuous assessment tests either. You did 3 years study and then took six 3-hour exams, two a day for three consecutive days. That way, you got tested on whether you had LEARNED stuff, not whether you could remember something for a week and forget it just as quickly.
That's a very good point, it was my junior year before I stopped cramming for tests, and took them blindly so that I was actually forced to learn the material.
 
  • #11
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I just download them lol, it helps to see if I am approaching the problems correctly. I dont' understand why professors won't upload them for us, do they want a hundred kids spamming their emails asking the same problem?
 
  • #12
I'm assuming the only way to get by without the manuals is to work hard to understand the material while reading the chapters, even if it takes hours. Are there any other tips people have?

I had a feeling doing almost nothing but problems was doing me some harm, but I can think of three teachers right now that have told me it's a great way to learn. It does help pinpoint gaps of knowledge, but when I get a job there won't be manuals available so I want to learn a more legitimate approach to learning.
 
  • #13
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What you do when you have a book with no solutions, or no solution manual, is you compare your answers to those of other students. Personally, I'm a fan of solution manuals because they allow students to follow their own personal schedules. Feel like working at midnight, but you're stuck on some problem and don't want to wake anyone else up? No problem; just look in the manual for help. You'll eventually learn to guide your eyes so that you don't see the whole solution and can instead just take hints from it. (and let's not talk about when the manual is wrong, like two error-filled ones that I'm dealing with right now)
 
  • #14
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Solutions manuals can be a good resource if you use them properly. However, it's easy to abuse them and it will show come exam time.
 

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