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Mathematics for the Life Sciences

Erin N. Bodine, Suzanne Lenhart and Louis J. Gross
Princeton University Press
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Tom Schulte
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Thismathematical textbook for students in the life sciences is suitable for an applied track after (or during) a first calculus semester. Typical texts I see at this level feature, in each chapter, one or two page-length applications in detail. This work features several per chapter. For instance, the chapter introducing matrix algebra has three page-length matrix multiplication application examples (two on ecological succession and one on modeling bird feeding costs) and two additional MATLAB implementations.

The plentiful, descriptive models and guided implementation of quantitative techniques using MATLAB set this book apart from standard textbooks for early undergraduate courses. This textbook features accessible introductions to key mathematical concepts, linking them to biological models and theory while presenting MATLAB as a computational tool. It makes for a very coherent approach.

Much of Mathematics for the Life Sciences requires only a high school math background. Calculus topics (differentiation, integration) are covered, but the treatment is not really introductory. Students will maximize the value of the text with an earlier (or parallel) introduction to calculus fundamentals. The textbook also covers basic analysis of bivariate data (histograms, linear regression, correlation, etc.), allometry (exponential and logarithmic modeling), sequences and difference equations, vectors and matrices as far as eigenvalues, and probability. Add to this three chapters on differential equations, providing this introductory text with wide scope.

Undergraduate life science students will find here a single volume covering the basic requirements for attaining mathematical literacy in the study of modern biology. The authors took on an ambitious challenge: to incorporate all the fundamentals essential for analyzing biological systems into a single volume. The result is a cogent, thorough, and largely self-contained introductory textbook for undergraduate biology students.

Tom Schulte finds the biological examples and student projects here to be inspiring material for his own classroom at Michigan’s Oakland Community College.