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Oct. 03, 2012

Funny Little Math Book

by Annette Heist

Click to enlarge images
It's little. It's funny. It's hard to believe we're talking about a math book. 
 
University of Pennsylvania professor Robert Ghrist* says he wrote and illustrated his 45-page FLCT: Funny Little Calculus Text to "repair some of the damage" done to his students who took calculus in high school.
 
"I teach a lot of engineers. They all had calculus in high school, and they know how to compute a thing or two, but they don't know what it all means," he says. "This helps them understand why it's important."
 
He offers the book for free to those who want a refresher course, but don’t want to "lug around a ten pound calculus book that is unloved and unread." 
{"input":{"width":490,"photo":"book3","row":"4437","table":"DOCUMENT"}}
Ghrist doesn't describe himself as an artist, but says he "mostly doodles for therapy." Drawing, he says, helps him in his work as a topologist (a mathematician who studies abstract shapes). 
 
"It’s a beautiful branch of mathematics. It was long considered too abstract to be used for anything. My research leads me to draw lots of pictures, to think visually and that has a nice resonance for how I teach," Ghrist says.  
 
Dr. Ghrist will be teaching a free calculus class via coursera.org, starting January 7, 2013.  You can get a taste of the class in the video below. 

*Dr. Ghrist is the Andrea Mitchell University Professor of Mathematics and Electrical & Systems Engineering. (Yes, THAT Andrea Mitchell.) 
About Annette Heist

Annette Heist is a former senior producer for Science Friday.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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