'The Stepping Stones to Calculus'

‘The Stepping Stones to Calculus’ by Sharon Cade.

Ocean Park, Washington, resident Sharon Cade taught math for Oregon Episcopal School for almost 30 years.

In 2007, she became a math consultant, advising teachers, administrators and textbook publishers.

Cade recently self-published a math review book, “The Stepping Stones to Calculus.”

With so many students learning from home during the coronavirus pandemic, she thought it could be helpful for students, their parents and tutors.

After my last day of geometry in ninth grade, I pretty much closed the door on math and never looked back. I still practice arithmetic when balancing my checkbook and following recipes but I’ve been content to leave math to the rest of the world.

Still, I know Cade has a point. Students everywhere are facing challenges in navigating this new learning landscape. And many parents right now have been plunged into a role they feel ill-equipped for.

This needs an all hands on deck response, so after Cade told me about her book, I decided to take a look.

“The Stepping Stones to Calculus” is a sturdy, spiral-bound guide that begins with pre-algebra and moves on to reviews of geometry, quadratics, polynomials and more.

The book’s can-do introduction encourages readers to take the time to reacquaint themselves with foundational concepts and to remember that “MATH IS FUN.” (Those are Cade’s capital letters).

Almost every page includes notes in color, written alongside the text in the kind of scrawl a classroom teacher might produce when using an overhead projector to illustrate problems. These notes provide the extra skosh of insight that can get students over the hump, from mystified to enlightened.

But I’ll be frank. I ran into my first math logjam on page 11. It was discouraging. I had no idea why algebraic letters suddenly had intruded in the middle of a sentence about the cube root of eight. I felt the frustration that so many must be dealing with in this new educational reality. Eventually, I realized I simply had to turn the page and move on.

I discovered that at the end of every chapter, Cade presents a set of problems for students to practice what they’ve just reviewed. These are helpful.

But what I found downright revelatory were the solutions to those problem sets, which are provided at the end of the book. Cade gives the correct answers but also demonstrates the different steps that can be used to solve problems so you’re able to determine where you went astray. This was fresh air for my fevered brow.

Final analysis: Did I think “The Stepping Stones to Calculus” was “FUN?” Not really. But I do see how it could be useful in prepping for one’s next math class, placement exam or college admissions tests.

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com.

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