Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why maths textbooks when you can have Wikipedia?

  1. Mar 6, 2008 #1


    User Avatar


    I seem to be able to do all my maths homework using Wikiepdia as a resource alone. It is so good for definitions and examples.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 7, 2008 #2
    Watch out! It is not always right.
  4. Mar 7, 2008 #3
    Plus Wikipedia's approach to subjects and its definitions might not be the one your prof or book uses, and can cause problems.
  5. Mar 7, 2008 #4
    Wikipedia is definitely not anywhere close to the amount of knowledge contained in math textbooks.
  6. Mar 7, 2008 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    There have been lots of discussions on here about learning directly from Wikipedia. Try searching the forums and reading those.
  7. Mar 7, 2008 #6
    well, yes. but you know what? The reason might be... They dont know how to use computer! True. Here in my country, there are lots of people who doesn't know how to use computers...
  8. Mar 7, 2008 #7
    no proofs in wikipedia
  9. Mar 7, 2008 #8


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    wikipedia normally doesnt have much depth. you will eventually need carefully written books if you really want to understand something.
  10. Mar 7, 2008 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It can be a good source for starting out in many mathematical fields. Things to look out for:

    1. Errors. While the quality is usually pretty good, subtle errors can creep in easily. Further, blatant 'vandalism' , while usually caught quickly, is also possible.
    2. Lack of coherent definitions. Each article has its own terminology, which may not match that of other pages.
    3. Lack of proofs. You can learn results, but not how to derive them. Wikipedia has only a handful of proofs, less than a single textbook would have.
    4. Lack of exercises. Not a problem if you're in a class and have assignments from the professor, but otherwise it's another obstacle to learning.
  11. Mar 7, 2008 #10


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I wouldn't use wikipedia as a textbook, but certainly use it as a ressource!

    It's priceless. People talk about prof. won't like this or that, or prof. doesn't do that or this.

    That's crap because I bring up stuff I find on wikipedia, and I haven't had any faults about it yet. It's a great way to explore all kinds of things you can do in mathematics without spending hours browsing textbooks and smashing your head over it.
  12. Mar 7, 2008 #11
    Another point that I have not seen raised is that text books have structure. That is to say that an expert in the field has taken the time to organize material in a way to make progress through the subject logical.

    In short, I agree with JasonRox, it is an excellent reference, but not a textbook substitute.
  13. Mar 7, 2008 #12
    Neither are textbooks :wink:
  14. Mar 7, 2008 #13


    User Avatar

    I most like the examples in Wikipedia. There are usually more of them then in any one textbook. It also seems to really bring about all the background material in an area which is not significant enough for a textbook to dwell into in depth.
  15. Mar 7, 2008 #14


    User Avatar

    You'd think textbooks would have a better chance of being right but with all the scrutiny on Wikipedia, it might turn out to be more correct then textbooks. Certainly typos can be spotted and correct far more quickly then textbooks.
  16. Mar 7, 2008 #15


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    wiki is pretty good, but this is a little like asking why we prefer signed letters of recommendation to anonymous ones.

    i.e. published textbooks have more checks and balances. also, top experts tend not to write for wiki, more often crackpots and self designated experts do, (like me).


    more free advice available without request.

    the guy who said no proofs nailed it: i.e. you can't trust ANYONE! if they give the proof you can check it yourself, if not, be wary.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2008
  17. Mar 7, 2008 #16
    i don't mind using wikipedia as a resource for learning as well, i usually just use which ever makes more sense to me on a per topic basis

    however, i've found the textbook a bit better because the teacher is teaching from the textbook and it is usually more in line with the process of learning rather that just definitions and examples (ie. proofs, complex reasoning problems and real life examples)
  18. Mar 8, 2008 #17
    Wikipedia, are you kidding me! Use a reputable math help website.
    p.s. are you passing?
  19. Mar 8, 2008 #18
    Textbook > Wikipedia

    The textbook teaches you the subject int he context of what you will be tested on.
  20. Mar 8, 2008 #19


    User Avatar

    we would sometimes fight about proofs (and not just proofs "misusing" the dirac-delta, like in Sampling theorem). there used to be a little fight about the "proof by calculus" of Euler's formula.

    except for that they need to identify and respect experts in various fields (rather than equal-handedly allow some crackpot to "correct" the contribution of some expert), and lacking that, the organization is bad. but otherwise, most hard science, engineering, and math at Wikipedia is reasonably reliable.
  21. Mar 16, 2008 #20
    i.e. published textbooks have more checks and balances. also, top experts tend not to write for wiki, more often crackpots and self designated experts do, (like me).

    So post the proofs and get rid of your other complaint. :)

    I like the idea of Wikipedia. Unlike text books, it has an updatability factor.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook