Where have we come from and where are we going?

While on sabbatical during the winter semester of 2012, I began drafting a free, open-source calculus text.  I undertook the project in part because I felt like there wasn’t an activity-driven text available, as well as because I don’t think anyone should make millions by selling a calculus text.

The book that is underway is different from most existing texts in at least the following ways:

– the text will be free for download by students and instructors in .pdf format;
– due to the electronic format, graphics are in full color and there are live html links to java applets;
– the text will (eventually) be open source — interested instructors can gain access to the original source files upon request;
– the style of the text requires students to be active learners … there are very few worked examples in the text, with there instead being 3-4 activities per section that engage students in connecting ideas, solving problems, and developing understanding of key calculus ideas;
– each section begins with motivating questions, a brief introduction, and a preview activity, all of which are designed to be read and completed prior to class;
– the exercises are few in number and challenging in nature.

The interested user should know at least the following things before adopting the text:

– this is very much a work in progress; the materials have not yet been piloted or reviewed.  I began the project essentially in January 2012.  I am learning about a variety of key issues as the work progresses.
– there is not a traditional set of exercises included; for now, it is essential to have access to WeBWorK or some other source of routine problems.
– I have not yet completed materials for integral calculus; these are currently in progress (in collaboration with two of my colleagues), with the goal of having a usable draft of the material for integral calculus in time for Winter 2012.

While I think the text could be used in place of a traditional differential calculus text for the coming semester, a more realistic alternative might be to use it as a supplemental text for students, or to just use the activities workbook:  the text is arranged so that all of the activities are embedded in the text, but can also be compiled in a separate document that provides students room to work.  An instructor could use as many or few of the activities as she found useful.

See the page on my website devoted to the text, or this earlier post, where you can find a link to download a sample chapter of the text (which includes the table of contents).

I will be using the blog as a place to post user feedback and gain further ideas/suggestions/edits through the comments that readers and users of the text provide, and hopefully this site will become home for a community of users who decide to use the text in some way.  I’ll also, of course, post updates regarding how the project is progressing.



  1. I’m looking forward to checking this out! I’ve toyed around with the idea of doing something similar, but you beat me to it and now I don’t have to;) I would be interested in trying out the activities workbook this coming semester. Is this currently available?


  2. Dana – yes, the Activities Workbook is available upon request. Because I want to compile a list of users, I’m asking that people email me at boelkinm at gvsu dot edu to request a copy. Do so, and I’ll send it to you right away.

  3. […] last several months, and I’m deeply impressed by his vision for what this resource could become. He sums it up in this blog post: While on sabbatical during the winter semester of 2012, I began drafting a free, open-source […]

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