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This is not what I thought they meant by "reading books"… March 21, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in university.
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CIMG0934That is a stack of calculus based text books waiting for me when I return to UW week after next. And that is just the start of the stack. I’m sure there will be more added to it by the time I return. It is the end of the year, and the committee that coordinates the large calculus based physics courses is going to, perhaps, change from the Knight book. And guess who is a member of this committee?

Why can’t we settle on a book? Well, the basic problem is that we don’t uncover lots of the problems until we use the book. Knight, for example, was a book we thought was very neat when we first saw it. Now that we have used it for 2 years  we are seriously considering other text books.

Deciding is hard. The books are very similar. You can look for obvious quality problems (rotational motion is a good one — hard to get right). Then there is the books philosophy — how they approach the topic. Most are mainstream, but sometimes you get something radical.

I personally have a tough time with this: it is boring reading how reference frames are taught in 7 different text books, comparing the difficulty of home work problems, trying to guess if the students will find the figures in book A better than book B. But we have to do it — besides paying for the course credits/tuition, this is the single largest expense the students have for our course.

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1. pery - March 22, 2007

I would go with the cheapest one. Most of the ones I have seen are terribly similar. All thicker, more modern physics in the back, prettier pictures, little segments on “applications”, and more discovery type questions.

Hecht’s book actually talks about symmetry, like time symmetry being responsible for energy conservation, early and at a reasonable level. Some books bring in Coulomb when they do gravity. Minor variations on a theme.

All the rest are New York City Phonebook sized “how do you tell them apart” books. Pick the cheapest one, teach it for 2-3 years, find the flaws that WILL be there, and have another committee!

2. And The Winner Is... « Life as a Physicist - June 2, 2007

[…] June 2, 2007 Posted by gordonwatts in university. trackback Remember I posted about all those textbooks I head to read? I just looked at that picture in that post. If only the stack of textbooks had remained that […]


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