## Ohio State Introduces Massive Open Online Calculus 134

Posted
by
timothy

from the back-to-school-special dept.

from the back-to-school-special dept.

An anonymous reader writes

*"Professors at the Ohio State University are embracing MOOCs, with a Massive Open Online Calculus Course — it is completely open source; everything is on github. There is are free videos, free online assessment system, and a free textbook!"*
## Is are (Score:5, Funny)

Is are a free English and grammar course too?

## Re:Is are (Score:4, Insightful)

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Yes, and it's called Slashdot Grammar Nazis Open Courses (SGNOC).

(By the way, the correct syntax is "Are there any free ..." or "Is there any free ...").

## Re:Is are (Score:4, Funny)

Are you implying that beyond feeling the usual smugness, I could also lovingly stare at a certificate on a wall proving my superiority to the grammar-challenged heathens?!

Where do I sign up? I believe that I have enough narcissism to qualify!

## Re: (Score:1)

Yes, and it's called Slashdot Grammar Nazis Open Courses (SGNOC).

(By the way, the correct syntax is "Are there any free ..." or "Is there any free ...").

How would "Is there any free videos..." be correct?

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Is there any free videos source available online?

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I'm a Grammar Jew you insensitive clod!

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courseand "are" is used for plural subjects as incourse. One could say "Is theresacourse", but never "Is thereanycourses", and only "Are there any courses## Re: (Score:1)

No.

## Re:Is are (Score:4, Informative)

No state did that. IIRC there was a bill long ago in the Indiana state legislature years ago (1800's) that would have done so but it wasn't ever voted on. In 1961, the the novel a stranger in a strange land commented on a fictional law in Tennessee doing so but it was all fiction.

You are probably thinking of one of the email satires that spread back in the 90's when New Mexico was trying to supplant evolution with creationism.

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## cute graphic (Score:1)

but does it count to credits?

## Re:cute graphic (Score:5, Informative)

but does it count to credits?

Information about the actual course is located on https://www.coursera.org/course/calc1 [coursera.org]

Notable information is the class start date, August 23, and the result of taking the class, which is that you get a certificate signed by the instructor. The class is currently in progress (you're too late); the class lecture videos are much of the content are are on various instructor's YouTube channels.

What is checked into Github is the website and backend. There is no license that I can see for any content except (c) 2013, mooculus team, at the bottom of the site's non-doctype'd HTML. Math geeks can't nerd.

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How is it that so many readers seem to be struck by an overwhelming duplication virus today?

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Low hanging fruit abounds.

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## credits? (Score:3)

These online and free courses, do any of them apply to credits earned towards a degree or are they mostly an opportunity to learn something new or relearn (refresh) something you already should know?

I can see where just knowing a little more about certain subjects can enormously help people. Even when they should already know it but forget because they haven't used it for so long. For instance, I was trying to figure out how much sand I needed to cover a base for my patio and had to actually look up a formula instead of being able to remember what was needed to figure it out on my own (sand in my area is sold by the ton, not square or cubic foot). Another time, I was attempting to figure out how large of a square pipe (tube) I would need to match the flow of volume a round pipe on an exhaust stack would have and had to once again spend time looking up the formulas. I already had square tube on hand so I was looking at saving some cash.

I imagine that people use this type of information every day in their jobs and someone fresh out of school would probably be able to figure it out on their own in a few minutes. But for someone who is 17, would any of them apply to credits for college or just be a tool to give them a leg up for when they go?

## Re: (Score:1)

well

I just signed up for a switching power supply class on this website

its something I sort of know based on following by example, but hard theory and having a base on why things work the way they do would help me in my profession as we gravitate to that technology

whats to loose? some video game and hulu time?

whats to gain? a better understanding of something that is going to be more of a part of my job as time marches on?

sure I will put in 9 weeks and get a free certificate, make my life a bit easier, mayb

## Sadly, calculus is not all that useful... (Score:5, Interesting)

While I enjoyed the proof techniques and the clean structure of the theory, I have had almost zero use for it in 20 years of IT research and consulting. Modern algebra or set theory would have been far more useful, but I had to each that to myself...

## Re:Sadly, calculus is not all that useful... (Score:5, Insightful)

Calculus may not be directly useful in many fields but it trains one to approach problem solving in an organized way and with attention to detail.

Physics is similar in that even if you never use specific facts learned in the class, the approach to problem solving stays with you -if you are the sort who realizes that the physics approach is generally applicable and not limited to solving physics homework problems.

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Calculus may not be directly useful in many fields but it trains one to approach problem solving in an organized way and with attention to detail. Physics is similar in that even if you never use specific facts learned in the class, the approach to problem solving stays with you -if you are the sort who realizes that the physics approach is generally applicable and not limited to solving physics homework problems.

s/Calculus/Programing/

s/physics/Programing/gi

Solving any problem by implementing a solution in a computer, one approaches the problem in a far more organized way and with attention to details lost even in Calculus. Indeed, a small child creating an efficient curve plotting algorithm by breaking it into segments will discover much calculus by accident, and be far more learned of its actual applications and far more rewarded by the output as well -- It's a real world application; Humans learn best if s

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It's true that programming requires structured thought and attention to detail, but the context tends to be limited by the language you're learning. The goal of programming is generally to figure out how to use the available language syntax to produce a specific result. With physics, for example, the syntax is a set of laws that apply to almost everything in the universe, a context within which we all have daily experience whether we realize it or not (physics often reveals that context to the student).

## Re: (Score:2)

A language's expressivity is often limited by its syntax.

For example, in Python, I want to type "exit" to exit the interpreter, as I can in Ruby and the cmd interpreter. But Python enforces a syntax requiring me to use parentheses, even though the interpreter knows what I'm trying to do and could easily let me do it. Then Python violates its own rule when assigning functions to class variables, such as "__getitem__ = getitem" where getitem is a function.

So when I'm closing windows I can type "exit" to exit

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Of course it does:

>>> exit

Use exit() or Ctrl-Z plus Return to exit

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TL;DR: Calculus and Physics are shit at teaching problem solving compared to even BASIC.

You should move the TLDR to the beginning of the post. If it's at the bottom, it's useless as I probably have already read the complete text. Unless you wanted to say "to summarize", but then you should say that instead.

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Calculus may not be directly useful in many fields but it trains one to approach problem solving in an organized way and with attention to detail.

Even if "training [people] to approach problem-solving in an organized way and with attention to detail" is an important goal for math education, it used to be accomplished

in high school geometrywith the study offormal proofs, a task that teaches a much more structured way of approaching problem-solving. In many school curricula, that goal for geometry is largely dead.Calculus is a collection of useful tools, whose theoretical basis is generally poorly understood except by those who take even more adv

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And by the way, if we are trying to force some advanced math course onto a large portion of the population, I would recommend a course in statistics, probability, and data representation/manipulation far and above a basic course in calculus.

The chances that the average person is

evergoing to use calculus to solve a problem in his/her everyday life (i.e., outside of scientific or engineering work) is vanishingly small... unless he/she is a real nerd.On the other hand, a knowledge of how statistics, prob

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I would dispute that. Calculus is not that innovative in what it does. Now, if we were talking about teaching modern algebra, set-theory, topology, or even classical linear algebra, that would be different. But calculus mostly fails at what you think it teaches.

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Physics is similar in that even if you never use specific facts learned in the class, the approach to problem solving stays with you

Observe, imagine a theory, test it. I always found strong proximity of approach between physics and any kind of reverse engineering and bug tracking. The approach helps being a programmer or a syadmin.

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Well, calculus in the engineering space (you know, the place where a lot of things hold that in general calculus just do not work) is something different. I still remember when an EE prof told us that we "could always swap the order of integration in a double integral", when we just had learned that this is in almost all cases _not_ possible.

Still, engineers do not need all the proofs and theorems a real calculus lecture comes with. They just need to understand what the things do and then have a good comput

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Take the linear algebra mooc, or the mathematical philosophy one.

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I'm rather surprised you didn't have an algebra course. They usually show up simultaneously.

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I did have classical Linear Algebra, which still has some usefulness. Modern algebra was not available. I also dipped into abstract algebra lately. Fascinating, but time-consuming.

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Or maybe your job is just very applied without much background theory. Hmm.. This page [wikipedia.org] seems to have a bit of calculus involved.

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You need to distinguish between "Calculus" and "Application of Calculus". The former is about a lot of very specialized proof techniques and some specific insights some people had. The later is about calculating things in the real world. Applications of calculus are useful, but the only use I ever found for the proof-techniques taught in a proper calculus lecture were some complexity calculations that did just as well with approximations.

## It's really important now (Score:3)

No, you really need calculus in computing today if you're going to get above the peon level. This is recent. I went through Stanford for a MSCS in 1985, and it was all discrite math - number theory, automata, mathematical logic. You didn't even need an FPU back then. That was sort of true until the mid-1990s or so. Then it changed.

Today, it's machine learning, machine vision, deep neural nets, Bayesian statistics, adaptive control... That's all number-crunching intensive. Today,

advertisingrequires calc## Re: (Score:3)

I do not agree at all. And I am a bit above the "peon level" with an engineering PhD in the IT area from one of the best technical universities on the planet.

The other thing is that once you get serious about statistical approaches, you need a real statistician, i.e. specialized mathematician. CS folks routinely mess up statistics, because it is just too complicated.

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While I enjoyed the proof techniques and the clean structure of the theory, I have had almost zero use for it in 20 years of IT research and consulting.

Client: I've got several trains and they all need to meet a timetable. How would I do this?

Typical IT guy: well, of course you figure out how far your train goes when your driver presses harder on the pedal and you increment a counter until you get to the total distance of your first stop. This gives you the time it takes to get from stop A to stop B at different pedal pushes. You can do this for a series of points between stop A and stop B to see if your train is running a bit early or late and compensate

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Indeed. I am not opposed to math at all. I just say that calculus with its specialized proof-techniques is overrated. Application of calculus is different.

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You are absolutely right. Calculus leads to differential equations. Differential equations are used a lot in the natural sciences but not that much in computer or social sciences. More students would do far better would be a curriculum designed around statistics not differential equations.

Naive set theory should have been part of your middle school curriculum reinforced in college. Axiomatic set theory, if you need it, is always an elective.

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Indeed. As to set-theory, different continent. I did have naive set theory in primary school, though they dropped it because "it confused kids". Not that I noticed any... Real set-theory I taught myself to the degree I found it interesting.

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I have double feelings about having to quote maddox [thebestpag...iverse.net] about this, but he put it quite succinctly:

First of all, if you're leading your life in such a way that you never have to do math, congratulations, you are a donkey.

Why is math the only discipline that has to put up with this bullshit? People gladly learn art, music, literature and geography. You'll even nod like a happy idiot when you learn what a haiku is, and you never complain or whine about how you'll never use this in your "life." When is the last time you wrote a haiku, asshole?

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I was very specifically not talking about math in general, but about calculus in particular. Maybe read my posting?

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Maybe used by a lot of people, but only a very specific application. Definitely not worth wasting everybodies time with calculus. Now, statistics would have been a real benefit, and a bit of calculus is needed to support that, but not this monster that is typically taught.

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Yes, but they do not need a calculus lecture. They only need an "Application of Calculus" lecture and that is a whole different beast.

## What's most important to learn? (Score:4, Insightful)

I'm all for Open Courses, especially when the Universities, Professors and Research are funded by the state (I'm not talking for US only). However, IMO the issue is, what should the priorities for self-learners be?

Math is considered as the language of science, but sometimes I wonder whether open courses on human relationships, empathy, self-help and helping each other (i.e. things that our parents taught us and are seldom, if ever touched upon by today's parents), and most importantly, detoxification from technology (I'm thinking of the billions of man-hours spent on texting, sexting and the so-called "social networking") might be more important for today's youth.

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I'm not opposed to those kinds of courses. We're all human and need the things you're advocating. However, there's only so far that a positive outlook, a friendly smile and an open personality will get humanity before some poor, lonely, anti-social schmuck, who wasn't invited to The Party, has to sit down and actually get The Work done. Ulti

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not all of us are youth

if you bothered to investigate the site they have many classes

what pisses me off is the nearly 1.5 grand spent on my wife's required "wellness" class that nearly 2/3rds of the 200$ book was telling your boyfriend you have herpies

god damed 35 years old, been married for nearly 8, what is the point of this for adult students, none, just take it and shut up... thanks for your money, the teacher only held class once every 2 weeks

worthless

## Re: (Score:2)

There is a coursera MOOC on Aboriginal education and knowledge. One promise of technology is that we can use it to make it fade into the background so we can communicate without having to acknowledge it.

Or, like kicking away a ladder once we've reached the level we wanted to get to, we can use it to get to a point where we don't need it anymore.

## The Language God Talks (Score:4, Interesting)

Herman Wouk wrote a short book called

The Language God Talks.The title came from a statement made to him by Richard Feynman when Wouk was interviewing him for some background on the Manhattan Project for Wouk's two books on World War II. In their first meeting Feynman asked Wouk if he knew calculus and Wouk said no. Feynman told him that he should learn it since, "It is the language God talks."I am an engineer and while I didn't actually USE much calculus on a daily basis, it did help me understand the relationships and equations that I did use every day.

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Learning some calculus can give you insight into how the world works better than many other areas of mathematics.

I'd give that accolade to basic practical statistics, including evaluating gambling and other odds, risk, failure rates etc.

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What type of "basic practical statistics" are you doing that doesn't rely on calculus?

Let me guess: the kind that was derived using a boatload of assumptions expressed in the language of calculus and then written down (sans assumptions, intuition, and derivation) in a textbook. If you can't integrate, differentiate, and change variables then your stats will be severely limited and probably wildly incorrect since you don't actually understand what you're doing.

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Learning some calculus can give you insight into how the world works better than many other areas of mathematics.

I'd give that accolade to

basic practical statistics, including evaluating gambling and other odds, risk, failure rates etc.Absolutely. I'd much rather that we encouraged high school students wanting to take another math course to learn about practical statistics, probability, and data representation (and manipulation) rather than calculus.

Elementary calculus is a collection of useful tools for solving some more advanced problems that you can't solve with basic algebra. By itself, it gives you very little "insight into how the world works," unless you use it on a regular basis.

But let's face it -- when's the last time you

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## Two questions (Score:1)

1) Do there exist easy methods to decide how good/effective/complete/accurate (add your own metric) an online course is? As the number of online courses grow, it would be nice to have some way to compare courses against each other. For example to decide which one(s) are more 'worthy' to invest ones time in.

2)

Especiallyin public education, why isn't this type of course thenormby now? It's 2013, laptops, tablets etc are practically everywhere, so it isn't hard to have students follow an online course.## Re: (Score:2)

2) Especially in public education, why isn't this type of course the norm by now?

Because of the massive dropout rate, and, relatedly, the need for intrinsic self-motivation.

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Why force people to learn? Let them approach a subject when they are interested, motivated, and they will learn much more effectively. The drop-out rate is irrelevant; you can learn something from the first classes, which often state the basic principles or axioms of the subject. Sometimes it takes a while to understand those; perhaps you disagree with them and don't want to continue until you figure out why precisely.

Alfie Kohn writes in http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/tcag.htm [alfiekohn.org] :

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Why force people to learn?

Because people are willing to pay you, a lot, to force them to learn.

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No need to ban sado-masochism. Just don't force everyone into that mold.

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Everyone should be taught how to read though, for their own good and the good of society.

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The idea that a high drop-out rate is bad implies that students can't be trusted to make their own decisions, so steps must be taken to force them to continue.

I think the idea that a high attrition rate is bad comes from a physical classroom where perhaps resources are needed to prepare for a certain number of physical bodies in the classroom. But a virtual classroom is very different because the videos scale easily, and there is no cost to preparing a video that gets viewed by 5000 instead of 10000 student

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Probably the best "metric" is word-of-mouth.

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1) Do there exist easy methods to decide how good/effective/complete/accurate (add your own metric) an online course is?

For us, we get quite a bit of data from MOOCulus; you can see a bit about the "big data" issues at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pj-C0JVY6mY [youtube.com] For others, the Quality Matters Rubric [qualitymatters.org] is a set of 8 general standards and 41 specific standards used to evaluate the design of online and blended courses.

2)

Especiallyin public education, why isn't this type of course thenormby now?The majority of the students taking math at OSU are already using some sort of online homework tool.

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How come I'm always in the tails of "big data" analyses, and thus ignored?

## The killer feature are the online exercises! (Score:2)

The online exercises for this course are great! They change every time so one can practice until one has mastered the concept. This was the real missing component in these online math courses. Most textbooks I've looked at don't have answers to exercises which makes it difficult to check that one has truly mastered the material without a teacher to act as a gatekeeper to the right answers.

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The online exercises for this course are great!

I'm glad you like them. We get quite a bit of data from the online exercises [youtube.com].

## Lecture, textbook, problem set - that's all? (Score:2)

These "online courses" are mostly the same old crap repackaged for online distribution. Videos of actual blackboards, in some cases. It's not a semi-intelligent program teaching you the subject [thejournal.com], something that's quite feasible for calculus and much of basic math.

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Videos of actual blackboards, in some cases.

The videos aim to be a lot more than blackboard talks; take a look at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otW6HcxrRlY [youtube.com] for instance.

It's not a semi-intelligent program teaching you the subject

The exercises use a hidden Markov model to estimate whether the student has mastered a concept.

## nice !! (Score:2)

## I want credit (Score:2)

Yes, I think MOOCs are an interesting new educational paradigm. But if I'm going to spend time doing something at university level, then I'd like to get university-level trasnferable credit not just a certificate of completion. Otherwise its just another time-sucker like WoW.

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*transferable

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Except that you actually learn something useful from it.

## mooculus? (Score:1)

Is this the site for cows to learn differential equations?

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## Does that mean.... (Score:2)

Interesting. If calculus professors are pushing online calculus courses instead of traditional in class courses

andcalculus hasn't had any really new developments in about 100 years, do we even need calculus professors anymore?It would seem odd that this group of professors feel that MOOCs do as good of a job as they do at a fraction of the cost.

## Overrated (Score:1)

While I have nothing against this laudable approach, I can't perceive it to be life-shattering.

Teaching in a university, I had to learn the nature of the large majority in front of me. They wouldn't exactly be interested in the subject matter, and neither motivated to invest any more minute than absolutely necessary. Especially so in the material advocated as 'recommended reading'.

Either it will be made easy-peasy, or the lim of the attrition rate for t towards the end of the course can be approximated by z

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You can still teach, in the forums. Vote for a basic income and free yourself to transmit knowledge without the constraints imposed by arbitrary hierarchies whose main goal is to control others, not empower.

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I think the big deal is "open source". Any other person, school, tutor, or whatever can grab the source and adapt it to what they need. IF they improve it and release it, it can be improved on again and again. This might make it more useful then existing programs available.

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It's as free to use as Metallica's music, as it stands now.

It's 100% proprietary with full source disclosure, but that hardly makes it open source.

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The best I can find is a notation in the terms of service for the sign up page that directs to coursea.

They seem to lay claim to all the content for all the courses offered and do not allow any reproduction outside of personal use connected with taking the courses.

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Judging from the "usefulness" of math-related articles on Wikipedia, which immediately descend into obscure minutia at the cost of comprehensibility, I'm thinking a model where professional educators, rather than either professional mathemeticians or laypeople, review and approve changes might have some benefits. We'll see how that works out. Hopefully they will have responsive project administators, because considering I found two potentially confusing things on the first two pages of Chapter 1 of the bo

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I think the math articles are quite good on Wikipedia, often better than what used to be available in professional math encyclopedias that were still being sold through the 1990s. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia not a text book, it is expecting that you already have a high level of understanding and need reference material on the topic.

## The book is written by math enthusiasts. (Score:2)

"An organized scientific approach to evaluating course materials is sorely lacking."I agree.

Most people don't care about mathematics directly, they care about how mathematics can help them do something they want to do. But apparently the Calculus book [osu.edu] is written by math enthusiasts. Here is an example from page 9, the 2nd page of text:

"Warning A function is a relation (such that for each input, there is exactly one output) between sets and should not be confused with either its formula or its plo## Re: (Score:2)

...; it's not really helpful in a general way.This also covers all sports, almost all games, pretty well all art, music, and literature, and just relaxing in the sun.

Personally, I only do the "helpful" stuff as a means to be able to do the important stuff.

## That avoids the question. (Score:2)

## The Calculus book is oversimplifying. (Score:2)

Quote from the calculus book:

"A function is a relation (such that for each input, there is exactly one output)..."I can understand why a mathematician might like to say that. However, in the real world there are many phenomena in which, for one input, there are several outputs. I want to use mathematics to model the world. Some mathematicians want to use mathematics as a hobby.

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I can understand why a mathematician might like to say that. However, in the real world there are many phenomena in which, for one input, there are several outputs.

How is that oversimplified? The book doesn't say those phenomena don't exist (at least, not in the quote), it says they're not functions.

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It's not ethically challenging like drug testing, since you can always remediate after a bad lesson.

http://memexplex.com/meme/1746/ [memexplex.com]

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IF they improve it and release it, it can be improved on again and again.

I have big hopes for iterative improvements, guided by the data we're gathering [youtube.com].

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The article summery says it is open source. Perhaps the author knows something about it or maybe they just assumed wrongly like you pointed out. If it is open source, I would say it is news worthy.

## Did anyone actually read the book? (Score:4, Informative)

The colophon of the book states it clearly enough:

"This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/ [creativecommons.org] or send a or send a letter to Creative Commons, 543 Howard Street, 5th Floor, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA. If you distribute this work or a derivative, include the history of the document."

"The source code is available at: https://github.com/ASCTech/mooculus/tree/master/public/textbook [github.com]"

I guess the rush to post overwhelmed any curiosity in the material itself. Yes, the repetition "or send a or send a" exists in the textbook.

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WOW! Now in 1997 this is big news. Probably by 2013 or whatever there'll be hundreds of Calculus courses online and something like this won't be news at all.

Uh, it is news because AFAIK it is the first coursea MOOC (actually the first MOOC afaik) othat is making everything available with github. Every other MOOC I've seen delivers its content in a closed/semi-closed delivery platform. The closest thing I've seen are the MIT Open CourseWare materials made available via iTunes, but those are just content, not actual courses with live exams and grading.

But hey, don't let that stop people from nihilistically dismiss this good stuff. Whatever gets them through the

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