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Precalculus: OpenStax

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Precalculus Cover is copyrighted by Rice University. It is not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.

Description: Published by OpenStax College, Precalculus is intended for college-level precalculus students. Since precalculus courses vary from one institution to the next, we have attempted to meet the needs of as broad an audience as possible, including all of the content that might be covered in any particular course. The result is a comprehensive book that covers more ground than an instructor could likely cover in a typical one- or two-semester course; but instructors should find, almost without fail, that the topics they wish to include in their syllabus are covered in the text. Many chapters of Openstax College Precalculus are suitable for other freshman and sophomore math courses such as College Algebra and Trigonometry; however, instructors of those courses might need to supplement or adjust the material. OpenStax will also have College Algebra and Algebra and Trigonometry titles tailored to the particular scope, sequence, and pedagogy of those courses.

Author: Jay Abramson, Arizona State University

Adoption (faculty): Contact us if you are using this textbook in your course

Adaptations: Support for adapting an open textbook

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1. Reviewed by: Erin Moulding
  • Institution: Douglas College
  • Title/Position: Math Instructor
  • Overall Rating: 3.6 out of 5
  • Date:
  • License: Creative Commons License

Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary

While the level of the descriptions and examples seemed appropriate, the level of the exercises is completely inappropriate for our PreCalculus course. Most are trivially easy reinforcement of skills with only a few harder exercises, and painfully few combine skills from previous areas. This leaves students critically under-prepared to move to subsequent topics and courses. This choice of level for exercises is honestly baffling. For this reason alone, I would not recommend this textbook.

In terms of content coverage, many areas are covered well, but a few critical areas are missing. For example, the material on quadratic functions does not include how to complete the square, or mention completing the square at all. Instead it has students memorize the -b/2a formula. Later in the chapter on conic sections, it's assumed that students know how to complete the square. While this is covered in previous courses, it is critical enough that it should be reviewed.

The book includes more material than could be covered in one course, by design, to allow instructors to include the extra topics of their choice.

The index is fine, and with a searchable online version or PDF most things are able to be found.

Comprehensiveness Rating: 1 out of 5

Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased

There are some errors in the exposition. There is a document of errata available, but it is only available to instructors signed in to the OpenStax website. It is unclear how often they are incorporated into the web version and PDF versions of the text. Most of the errors noted in the errata are minor typos and clarification of wording, but a few are sloppier descriptive errors that should have been caught.

The text does not seem biased to me.

Content Accuracy Rating: 3 out of 5

Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement

Some examples use recent events to illustrate concepts. These were appropriately chosen and not overdone, and will not become obsolete. Content in precalculus is fairly static, so any updating needed would be for changing how courses are taught, not changing content.

Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used

The language use is straightforward, though a little bland in places. New terminology is called out and defined, and wording is precise but not too complicated to follow.

Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework

As noted in comprehensiveness, the exclusion of completing the square in quadratic functions was inconsistent with the conic sections. I did not notice other major inconsistencies.

Consistency Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.

The material is divided into numbered chapters and sections, and each section has several subsections with headings but not numbers. Reading is divided up by examples, boxed definitions, and other labeled features.

Reorganization should be possible. There are not many self-references beyond what would be expected from topics that build on each other. The later chapters are explicitly designed to have instructors pick and choose which topics to cover.

Modularity Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion

A few choices in order of material are strange. Material on graphing polynomials is presented before finding zeros, so the only exercises requiring graphing are those that are either given in factored form, or able to be factored without use of the rational zeros theorem. The section on inverse functions is inappropriately light, while more difficult inverse functions are left for a separate section on inverses and radical functions that appears after polynomial and rational functions.

The first few sections in chapter 1 are choppy, but this is not unusual as there are a number of small things to cover.

The flow was interrupted by boxed definitions and additional features such as Q&As. I found the division distracting at times, and felt that some of these features would do better as sidebars rather than break up the main flow.

Organization Rating: 2 out of 5

Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader

The online version is easily navigable and searchable, and the PDF version has links to sections. The online version hides solutions to examples and odd exercises under a link, which is nice, but it also leaves off numbering of exercises.

Interface Rating: 4 out of 5

Q: The text contains no grammatical errors

I am not qualified to judge grammar, but there appeared to be the usual number of minor errors.

Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds

Most of the word problems in both the examples and exercises are given without identifying details (“a student”, “ a company”, etc.). When names are used, they are varied. It appears that this was a deliberate consideration in creating the book.

Cultural Relevance Rating: 5 out of 5

Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?

Imperial units are used, and while metric would be nice, updating that would be very time consuming.

This book was adopted for a term as a trial, since on initial review it had everything necessary. We have reverted back to our previous book due to the issues mentioned in this review, particularly the inadequate exercises. Students were frustrated that the level we expected of them was higher than what they could prepare for from the textbook, and while we supplemented as we could, it was not enough.