You Get Calculus! And You Get Calculus! Everybody Gets Calculus!

In honor of the beginning of the school year, which is coming in the next few weeks for many of us, I thought you might like opencalculus. Matt Boelkins, a math professor at Grand Valley State University in Michigan, is working on a free, open-source calculus textbook. Active Calculus, which he wrote with the help of his colleagues David Austin and Steven Schlicker, is available for download at Boelkins’ website under a Creative Commons license. Last week, Boelkins announced that it had been endorsed by the American Institute of Mathematics, which reviews and recommends free math resources.

Gabriel's Horn, which has infinite surface area and finite volume and is one of my favorite examples in calculus. Image: Public domain, by RokerHRO via Wikimedia Commons

Gabriel’s Horn, which has infinite surface area and finite volume and is one of my favorite examples in calculus. Image: Public domain, by RokerHRO via Wikimedia Commons.

Textbooks are too expensive. The price is often “what the consumer will bear,” and the student is stuck bearing outrageous prices because the alternative is to have no book at all. Boelkins writes, “it is my opinion that any student of calculus ought to have the opportunity to learn calculus from a text that is free of charge (if used in electronic format), and that instructors ought to have the same freedom, as opposed to being bound to books that cost more than $100 and sometimes even approach $200.” In another post, he paraphrases Robert Ghrist as saying in a talk, “the limiting resource should not be access, but rather time and talent.”

Boelkins notes that there are other good free and low-cost calculus textbooks, but his teaching approach and therefore his text emphasize active learning, and he only includes a few challenging examples in the text rather than lots of simple ones. (He advocates WeBWorK as a good source for other examples and exercises.)

It is probably too late to change your calculus textbook for this semester, but perhaps the opencalculus blog will inspire you for future semesters. Boelkins is also a proponent of the free geometry program Geogebra and has some suggestions for how to use it in calculus class. He will be using Active Calculus in his calculus class this semester and blogging about it as he goes along. I am not teaching calculus this fall, but I will be watching the blog for ideas for next time.

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3 Responses to You Get Calculus! And You Get Calculus! Everybody Gets Calculus!

  1. Blake Stacey says:

    I think you need to escape a dollar sign; MathJax is being trigger-happy in the second paragraph.

  2. evelynjlamb says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, and thanks to Peter Krautzberger of MathJax for helping me fix it!

  3. laura says:

    As a Math student and open source $anything enthusiast, I found this post and Professor Boelkins’ work amazing! Thank you!

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