No longer Head First

August 12, 2006

I got the letter of cancellation for the Calculus book. It is no longer going to be a Head First book. I’ve been spending some time trying to figure out what it will be. This is a bit confused by my misunderstanding of what it was.

Without providing details, there seems to have been a disagreement among the too many editors involved in the book (I count seven who have so far weighed in with opinions). Some have found it to be very Head First and very good while recently a senior voice said it was not at all Head First and would have to be story-boarded and rewritten.

So it will be something else and that’s ok. It was initially something else. The Head First elements and philosophy is wonderful and this would have been a great book. Maybe they will sign someone else to write the book they want. I need to figure out what happens to this one.

I’m open to suggestions. Also – I’m looking for idea donations. What would you call the series that this book appears in?


5 Responses to “No longer Head First”

  1. I don’t know what’s up with Head First, if it’s ever going to get out of the programming rut, but that’s neither here nor there, I guess.

    I remember when you were first talking up this book, you talked up some new thinking about what’s needed in a Calculus book. Like not getting hung up on little pet theories that appeal to one Math prof at one college somewhere . Realistically, your book is aimed at the general math student, not at the one kid in 100,000 who’s so into math that he or she will go on to get a Ph.D. in Math. Maybe Head First would have been a shortcut around that kind of counterproductive feedback, but maybe it’s better to attack it head-on.

    Another interesting point was that there isn’t enough geometry in today’s calculus books. Interesting idea, and appealing to connect different topics. I think people learn things different ways. I’m very abstract in my thinking, but the child psych dealing with my son’s problems says he’s operating almost entirely in concretes: he sight reads long words (“women’, “cereal”, “main menu”, “fullmetal alchemist”, etc.) at age 4, but doesn’t put them into sentences. Different strengths, different weaknesses.

    For years, we’ve heard a song and dance about how schooling needs to be made more “practical” or have “real-world applications”. For me, who likes abstract concepts, that’s bullshit – it sounds like lazy kids filling out a form and trying to come up with a reason why they don’t like math (and who aren’t honest enough to admit they’re just lazy). It’s certainly not a solution for everyone, not a magic incantation that will catch our schools up with real countries where they care about education.

    In seventh grade, they tried to teach us grammar by having us do this endless, 3,000-question workbook of fill-in-the-blank responses. There were no chapters, no explanations, nothing. Just do an answer, flip the page to look at the right answer (whether you were right or wrong is irrelevant), and move on to the next. Obviously geared to the learn-by-example types. Did nothing for me. In ninth grade, I got what I considered “real” grammar, where we read a definition of a gerund and saw examples of how it’s used. That worked for me.

    I think there’s value in a mix of abstract and practical, understanding that each reader will come away with something different. To me, an integral is the inverse function of the derivative (I think… it’s been a while). But to someone else, it’s a formula for getting the area under a curve. Who’s right? We both are. They’re two different ways of reaching this knowledge.

    Not that I’m so theory-oriented that I dislike applying it. The only way I passed physics was because of a four-question open-book exam for which the median score turned out to be 23. I got a 35 (an A!) by getting one question completely correct – it had to do with drilling a hole through the center of the earth, dropping a ball down the hole and, assuming friction doesn’t exist, proving it moves with Simple Harmonic Motion. There’s a calc formula for gravity within a sphere; combine it with a few other things and this turns out to be true. Neat.

    Maybe your seven editors all thought that every page of the book had to speak uniquely to them and their view of the material. With that many cooks, nothing will ever get done. Better to cut your losses now, I think. Mix up the theory and practice and this will be an engaging book, even without the clip-art and the double-entendres.

  2. Jackie Says:

    Thanks for your post, i am doing a study on this and you have gibven me some great info



  3. anthony Says:

    I just ran across your site today as I was searching for a book to help me relearn some of the Calculus that I have forgotten since college. I recall the head first series in a few books that I have read and searched for the title, which led me to your site. I started reading about the book and then came to the post about your child. I am so sorry for your loss.

    I noticed that you mentioned completing the book and dedicating it to your daughter. Did you complete the book? If so, what is the title? I’d definitely be interested in purchasing it.


  4. Head:

    I’m looking for a book, Teaching Calculus in the First Grade. Can you help me?


  5. Hello – Did you every finish writing what was to be Head First Calculus? If so, what is the name of the book and where can I find it? I’d love to read it!!!!!!!!!!!

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