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I like "Dangerous Curves." Stealthy issues aside, it sounds more elegant than "Calculus Diaries," which is sort of "Disneyish. I don't think anybody in this country says "the calculus," do they?

Greetings!
I vote for Dangerous Curves, but then again, what would you expect coming from me?
This post is so timely, I was just having a discussion about Math last night with a friend. I equated me taking a dance-class (something I would struggle with but am capable of doing) to her taking a college statistics class (which she's about to start this Fall). I felt that acknowledging her capacity to learn the material and trying to eliminate the "I Hate Math" mantra was crucial for success. Reading your post reminded me that it really isn't that simple, so thank you.

I forgot to vote! I think "Dangerous Curves: A Calculus Diary" is perfect: it says to me that there is a story that will be intriguing whether I fear math or not.

Calculus diaries has my vote. I wonder if you go into differential equations at any point in the book. If so, (or if not!), Steven strogatz has an inspired analogy of the time evolution of love affairs via simple differential eq. Essentially, let r(t) be romeo's love for juliet, and j(t) vice-versa. Then one gets a 'coupled' set of diff eq for r and j. His article can be found here: https://tam.cornell.edu/tam/cms/manage/upload/Love-Affairs-and-Differential-Equations.pdf
He seems to have a book called 'the calculus of friendship' coming out this fall.

What a long post! :-)
Book titles often leap out at the very end. I can see it's all swilling around - a great title will emerge. I do prefer The Calculus Diaries, but publishers love subtitles so I'd put any joke or obtuse reference there. My own book had a really simple title. Also, if the book gets translated then a simple title makes it much easier than a pun that gets lost in translation.

As for maths learning, my experience as a private tutor has led me to think that the breaking point is that step from arithmetic to algebra. Any misunderstanding at that step makes all future maths courses pointless. Much of my work was thus in finding the very personal key to unlock my student's problem with algebra.

Just take a look at this:

2 x (3 + 4) = 14 (easy enough)

a(b + c) = ab + ac (OK, fine...)

2(3 + 4) = 23 + 24 = 49 (!!!!!!!!!) or
2(3 + 4) = 27 (now this I have seen!)

Teachers spend so long on the importance of operators and their order and then, seemingly for no good reason, the multiplication operator disappears.

The history of algebra points to a potential solution. Algebra developed to make mathematics easier - try solving a cubic equation using verbal recipes rather than symbolic algebra. there were also many conceptual problems that needed resolving. Did negative numbers really exist? Was it meaningful to talk about powers beyond 3 when there are only 3 dimensions? Algebra was initially a slave to geometry and all proofs had to be geometrically verified - just look at Euclid's Elements. Algebra was also not born fully-formed but evolved through various so-called syncopated styles, slowly moving from linguistic abbreviations to a fully symbolic language.

The other thing that is never taught is that numbers (in any context but here specifically wrt algebra) may look the same but can have three distinct functions: the most obvious is as a quantity; numbers can also be labels (often as subscripts); and they can be operators in their own right (such as power functions).

I think a lot of these problems would disappear if algebra was taught as if one were writing spreadsheet algorithms. There are no ambiguities here as the program will reject anything without proper syntax. Yes, there are more symbols, but those can be removed once the students understand why they can be removed without loss of meaning. For a subject that is supposed to be so logical, algebraic symbolism just isn't!

And finally... women are just as good at maths than boys! Sadly, research has shown in the UK that girls do a lot better when they are in girls-only schools, the suggestion being that boys try to dominate mixed classes even when they're dumber than the girls. In my last real teaching job my physics class had a 50-50 split between boys and girls. At that age (UK A-levels) anybody doing physics and maths classes wants to be there so there were no peer pressure problems. Nearly all the girls were, however, from immigrant families - European, Chinese, Indian etc. It's an attitude thing, nothing to do with ability.

If you're writing a book about making mathematics more accessible, I hope you've already seen:

A Mathematician's Lament: How School Cheats Us Out of Our Most Fascinating and Imaginative Art Form, by Paul Lockart

The book is an expanded version of a 25 page paper that was being passed around at conferences and stuff. You can find a copy here.


Even though I was a physics major who never met a branch of mathematics I didn't like (except for basic arithmetic -- yuck!), this paper left me feeling deprived. Good stuff!

James

Another attempt to post a link to the 25 page version of the book:
https://www.maa.org/devlin/LockhartsLament.pdf

Sorry about that.
James

I'm inclined to agree with Lab Lemming, a combination of the two titles.

I think lady mathematicians are (please excuse my vernacular...) "hot" (might be why I read your posts;-) So Dangerous Curves seems apt.

Also, September 18th is my birthday and I look forward to treating myself to your book as a present to myself.

I would read a book titled "A Calculus Diary" but I would not read a book titled "Dangerous Curves: How I learned to ... ". The first one sounds mysterious, as Diaries are typically things that are never published. Whereas a title that includes "How I learned to ..." sounds like you're selling something. In case it matters, I love calculus, so the name doesn't put me off.

Funny, even though I have enough math background to get me through a physics masters degree, I've never understood people who rave about the "beauty of math". Even though I am not scared off by equations, I see them as not much more than scaffolding. Maybe math would have been easier if I'd been able to get some of that aesthetic pleasure? Even symbolic logic, which I love ten thousand times more than math, doesn't ever seem beautiful to me... it's just a game that I particularly like. Am I missing something?

At the risk of alienating the author, I'll vote for neither title. "Calculus Diaries" sounds too much like a ripoff of "Motorcycle Diaries". "Dangerous Curves"....a lot like "Dangerous Liaisons".

I think it's a bad idea to use the word 'dangerous'. Calculus has enough of a bad connotation; you don't need to associate it with danger.

And there's the problem with the word 'calculus' itself. It sounds vulger, and will turn people off. Better to use the abbreviation 'calc'? Or call it: 'advanced math', 'higher-order math', 'divine math'.

But even that is not the problem I have with the title.

I'm guessing you'd like to emphasize the journey aspect of your book. This is not about math itself, but about your process of learning/appreciating it. Perhaps, if in such a journey, you experienced an 'aha moment' and suddenly 'got' this advanced math, you could use words that describe that moment and incorporate them into the title.

I think that would make for a more exciting 'hook', as they call it in the publishing world.

I vote for the Calculus Diaries. I am looking forward to the release of your book as I am in the process trying to teach myself calculus. I think Calculus Diaries sounds more interesting to a reader because it implies you will be telling your personal journey. The other title is too vague and sounds like another obtuse math book, perhaps. And oh please, NOT Dangerous Curves: A Calculus Diary. What the heck does that mean? Dangerous Curves conjures up either an image of a sports car on a mountain road, or a femme fatale with an hourglass figure. Don't go there! :-)

The question for those of us who hate math (I'll spare you my own personal story, though its much like the ones already posted), the question is how do we go about correcting the deficiency now? I'm a working professional with a wife and responsibilities, so how do I go about learning the algebra and geometry I'll need to understand calculus and other maths subjects?

The last time I tried, after I got my BA and was applying to Grad School. I was studying for the GREs and was having trouble with the math sections, my then girlfriend (now wife) picked me up these children's study guides and offered to help. But all I got was frustrated and angry. I felt like understanding math was like driving into a wall!

Does anyone have some recommendations?

Well, next fall/winter there will be a book published that I hope will help fill that gap. I hear you on that score: "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Calculus" was a bit beyond me when I started, frankly; perhaps they should rename it "The Half-Wit's Guide to Calculus." It helped to be married to a physicist who is good at explaining such things. Jason Bardi's "The Calculus Wars" and Charles Seife's "Zero" provided some useful insights, but mostly I found a series of lectures from The Teaching Company to be useful. The series is called "Calculus Made Clear" and is taught by a Texas math professor named Michael Starbird. There's also another lecture series on the history of math in general that was useful.

Hope that helps! I didn't learn calculus in any linear fashion; I picked it up in bits and pieces, with lots of repetition, and grasped a bit more with each iteration. But you do need someone knowledgeable to guide you when you have questions. A tutor, perhaps?

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The question for those of us who hate math (I'll spare you my own personal story, though its much like the ones already posted), the question is how do we go about correcting the deficiency now? I'm a working professional with a wife and responsibilities, so how do I go about learning the algebra and geometry I'll need to understand calculus and other maths subjects? The last time I tried, after I got my BA and was applying to Grad School. I was studying for the GREs and was having trouble with the math sections, my then girlfriend (now wife) picked me up these children's study guides and offered to help. But all I got was frustrated and angry. I felt like understanding math was like driving into a wall! Does anyone have some recommendations?

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