I learned something last night from Santo at QED Insight. In his post Students Don’t Read Textbooks he wrote that textbook manufacturers place restrictions on authors so they can maintain profit levels.

These restrictions include reducing page count (each page costs money to print) and increasing topics (the more topics, the more they can charge). The result is a textbook covering lots of stuff in the shortest amount of space possible.

### Doing math is not the time to save the trees.

I’ve said this to students at least 1,000 times. I use cloth diapers, so don’t think I’m a wasteful snot. I just know that to do math, you gotta write. A lot. And squishing things up when you do it never yields a happy ending.

So I was horrified to learn of this artificial condensing of math topics in textbooks. This led me to consider some alternatives.

### You can find non-condensed math books in lots of places.

There are the Life of Fred books which offer math using stories. The Living Math! folks have done tons of reviews of math literature. And it doesn’t have to be contextual lit, either. Dan Bach at Dan’s Math is writing an algebra book to be released this summer that doesn’t have the restrictions mentioned above.

### And you can find free stuff.

There is Free Math Help everywhere online. Homeschool Math has a list longer than your arm of online stuff. There’s Khan Academy, Math.com (cool url, huh?), and even the U.S. government has one!

So there’s no reason students or parents have to tolerate this high priced, squished content textbook thing anymore.

Do you know of other math resources? Please share them in the comments.

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- To Teach Math Successfully (lewrockwell.com)
- Wash. appellate court upholds math curriculum (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Khan Academy: the bad (inperc.com)

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Hi Bon,

Thanks for the mention, and I’m glad to read your post and learn about some nice resources that are new to me!

Just a point of clarification: In my post, I didn’t imply that increasing the number of topics allows publishers to charge more for their books, but rather that they hope to sell more copies, because the book would then be (they hope) adopted by a larger number of professors.

I was thinking about university books, where each university has courses that differ slightly in content and level. For elementary or high-school books, the situation is different. For these markets, publishers must satisfy the prescribed curricula very precisely, so they can’t overload a book with topics in hopes of appealing to other markets. Rather, they produce several versions of a book if they wish to sell it in different high-school markets, each tailored exactly to fit the curricula of that market.

I agree with you wholeheartedly that to learn math effectively you have to write a lot, and students should be encouraged to do so.

All the best wishes, Bon!

Thanks, Santo, for the clarification. I guess I got the “improved bottom line” mixed up with how they got there. They are trying to increase income by increasing the quantity, not price.

Bon