Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review of "Algebra for the Practical Man," by J. E. Thompson

Review of

Algebra for the Practical Man, by J. E. Thompson, D. Van Nostrand Company, Princeton, New Jersey, 1946. 300 pp. (hardbound). 

Four out of five stars

 Looking through this book the most obvious feature is that algebra has not changed much in the last seventy years. The only content in this book that is not part of the modern course is the presence of instructions on how to use tables of logarithms.
 The book opens with a chapter on the symbols and numbers of algebra, followed by chapters on the rules of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of numbers. Factorization, powers, roots, exponents, radicals, complex numbers, operations on binomials, solving equations, logarithms, exponential equations, ratios, proportions, progressions, series, combinations and basic probability are the remaining topics. The explanations and examples in the text could be used in modern classes.
 Exercises are given at the end of each chapter and solutions to all appear at the end. This is where this book is a refreshing change from the modern textbook. Most of the sets of exercises have only 18-20 problems in them. There seems to be something like an “arms race” among modern textbook authors in terms of how many exercises they include.
 Another significant difference is that this book contains no diagrams, it is all text and formulas. It is wise for the educator to take an occasional look back at how it was done many years ago and this book demonstrates the constants inherent in teaching algebra.

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