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Modeling Life

Alan Garfinkel. Jane Shevtsov, and Yina Guo
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Miklós Bóna
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Some universities have a separate calculus course for students who are in life sciences programs. The authors start by explaining that there is an emerging consensus about the need to update the scope of these courses. This book is an attempt in that direction.

As far as topics go, the book covers multivariate functions, linear algebra (including eigenvalues, eigenvectors, and dinamical systems), and some use of the open-source software system SageMath. The discussion is extremely strongly attached to examples from biology. All concepts are introduced through these examples (in contrast to more traditional textbooks, where we first see a theorem, then a few examples).

There are a sufficient number of exercises, and just about all of them require the understanding of a certain model, rather than carrying out a computation.

This reviewer fully understands the authors’ goals and the ways in which they try to achieve them. His complaints are not about what is in the book, but about what is not. From the perspective of this reviewer, the authors take the application-oriented approach a bit too far. If a student only sees a mathematical concept in examples, and not in theory, then he or she will have undue difficulties when they have to apply that concept in new circumstances. For instance, I would have liked to see the second derivative of functions, their interpretation, and their applications. Students would probably like some solutions, or at least, answers, for selected exercises.

Milós Bóna is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Florida.

See the table of contents in the publisher's webpage.