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Precalculus Text Emphasizes
Real-Life Examples

Posted August 1, 2000

HOLLAND -- Real-life examples are stressed in a new precalculus text co-written by three members of the Hope College and Calvin College faculties, part of an on-going effort by the team to help students understand how mathematics relates to both other disciplines and the world around them.

"Precalculus: A Study of Functions and Their Applications" is being published this month by Harcourt College Publishing. The authors are Todd Swanson, adjunct assistant professor of mathematics at Hope; Janet Andersen, associate professor of mathematics and chair of the department at Hope; and Robert Keeley, who is an associate professor of education at Calvin and a former mathematics teacher at Holland Christian High School.

Written in a conversational tone, the book is designed so that students will read about, write about and discuss the mathematical concepts they are exploring. According to the authors, functions that are traditionally presented separately in precalculus texts are instead reviewed together to show how they are related to one another. Similarly, projects concerning topics ranging from crickets, to golf, to automobile acceleration provide examples of how the concepts can be applied.

"With real-world exercises, investigations and projects, this text provides a complete instructional package for a contemporary precalculus course," Swanson said.

"Precalculus: A Study of Functions and Their Applications" was written for use in one-semester college courses in precalculus, but is also intended to be suitable for year-long high school courses.

The book stems from an effort that began in the summer of 1994, when Andersen, Keeley and Swanson began developing sets of precalculus problems for classroom use with support from a $150,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. In 1997, their work led to the publication of "Projects for Precalculus," a compilation of 26 multi- question problem sets. "Projects for Precalculus" was an award winner in the Innovative Programs Using Technology competition in 1997, and was featured in the book "Exemplary Programs in Introductory College Mathematics," published by the Mathematics Association of America in 1998. Several of the projects are featured in the new text.

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