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Calculus Simplified

Oscar Fernandez
Princeton University Press
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Sarah Boslaugh
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There is no lack of introductory calculus textbooks on the market, yet finding the ideal book for a particular group of learners can be challenging. Oscar Fernandez’s Calculus Simplified is intended for three types of students: those currently taking or about to take a first semester calculus course at a college or university, those taking an AP calculus course or the equivalent in high school, and those who took calculus some time ago and need to refresh their memory of the subject. 
Calculus textbooks can be forbidding and expensive, but Calculus Simplified is neither. Instead, the author adopts a patient and welcoming tone, explaining things that might be obvious to a mathematician (such as how to think about problems in calculus, as opposed to the mindset appropriate to earlier math courses), and uses clean page design to present the course content as clearly as possible. Students who find math intimidating or who lack confidence in their abilities will appreciate the inclusion of step-by-step procedures to complete basic tasks in calculus (e.g., finding the absolute extrema of a continuous function over a closed interval) and the many solved problems for which the reasoning behind each step is included.
The most logical use of this textbook is in terminal calculus courses for students majoring in subjects such as business, psychology, or biology. At many universities, students in those majors need only take one calculus course, and that course is often dreaded by students, who may see it as something imposed upon them, which is designed to wreck their grade point average, but which is not really relevant to their chosen course of study. For these students, covering the necessary material without making things more difficult than they need to be is key, and Calculus Simplified does an excellent job in this regard. 
Fernandez covers the content typical of a first semester calculus course—limits, derivatives, and integration—and includes both theory and application for each topic, through a combination of explanations and practical examples to promote understanding of key points without overwhelming students whose primary interests lie outside of mathematics. On the other hand, professors teaching students majoring in mathematics, engineering, and the physical sciences are likely to want a textbook with more theoretical rigor, and more practice problems, than are provided in Calculus Simplified, and there many other textbooks on the market to serve those students.  
Calculus Simplified includes almost 200 solved examples, over 300 exercises, an index, and three appendices providing a review of algebra and geometry, a review of functions, and additional applied examples. The text is primary black and white, with blue used to promote readability by highlighting headings and the like. The inside front and back covers contain charts of important formulas and theorems, making that information readily. Finally, students will be particularly pleased at this book’s low price ($19.95), which is comparable to the cost of a printed copy of an open-access textbook, and the generally user-friendly organization of materials. The book’s website includes appendices containing more theoretical material for each chapter, practice tests (with solutions), resources for instructors, and an errata page.


About the reviewer: Sarah Boslaugh is a tutor in mathematics and chemistry at Forest Park Community College in Saint Louis, MO. She is also the author or editor of numerous technical books, including The Encyclopedia of Epidemiology (Sage, 2008) and Statistics in a Nutshell (2nd ed., O’Reilly, 2012). 
The table of contents is not available.