Hi all! I’m happy to announce a public availability of the BetterExplained Guide To Calculus. You can read it online:
And here’s a peek at the first lesson:
(Like the new look? I’ve been working with a great designer and will be refreshing the main site too.)
The goal is an intuition-first look at a notoriously gnarly subject. This isn’t a replacement for a stodgy textbook — it’s the friendly introduction I wish I’d had. A few hours of reading that would have saved me years of frustration.
The course text is free online, with a complete edition available, which includes:
- Course Text
- Video walkthroughs for each lesson
- Per-lesson class discussions
- PowerPoint files for all diagrams
- Quizzes to check understanding (In development)
- Print-friendly PDF ebook (In development)
- Invitations to class webinars (In development)
The price of the course will increase when the final version is released, so hop onto the beta to snag the lower price.
Building A Course: Lessons Learned
A few insights jumped out while making the course. This may be helpful if you’re considering teaching a course one day (I hope you are).
I struggled with what to make free vs. paid. I love sharing insights with people… and I also love knowing I can do so until I’m an old man, complaining that newfangled brain-chip implants aren’t “real learning”.
Incentives always exist. I want to make education projects sustainable, designed to satisfy readers, not a 3rd party.
Similar to the fantastic Rails Tutorial Book, the course text is free, with extra resources available. Having the core material free with paid variations & guidance helps align my need to create, share, and be sustainable.
Being Focused Matters
Historically, I’m lucky to write an article a month. But this summer, I wrote 16 lessons in 6 weeks. What was the difference?
Well, pressure from friends, for one: I’d promised to do a calculus course this summer. But mostly, it was the focus of having a single topic, brainstorming on numerous analogies/examples, and carving a rough path through on a schedule (2-3 articles/week).
I hope this doesn’t sound disciplined, because I’m not. A combination of fear (I told people I’d do this) and frustration (Argh, I remember being a student and not having things click) pushed me. When I finished, I took a break from writing and vegged out for a few weeks. But I think it was a worthwhile trade — in my mind, a year’s worth of material was ready.
There’s many options for making a course. Modules. Quizzes. Interactive displays. Tribal dance routines. Hundreds of tools to convey your message.
And… what is that message, anyway? Are we transmitting facts, or building insight?
Until the fundamentals are working, the fancy dance routine seems useless. I’d rather read genuine insights from a pizza box than have an interactive hologram that that recites a boring lecture.
When lessons are lightweight and easy to update, you’re excited about feedback (Oh yeah! A chance to make it better!).
The more static the medium, the more you fear feedback (Oh no, I have to redo it?). A fixed medium has its place, ideally after a solid foundation has been mapped out.
I’ll be polishing the course in the coming weeks, feedback is welcome!