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Prof. E. McSquared's Calculus Primer: Expanded Intergalactic Version!

Howard Swann and John Johnson
Dover Publications
Publication Date: 
Number of Pages: 
[Reviewed by
Tom Schulte
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Author Howard Swann taught mathematics at San Jose State University from 1970 until his retirement. Illustrator John F. Johnson has the pen and style to bring to life the cartoons here, with punchlines like “Good Vibes” and so forth. The result is a unique and special entry in the annals of calculus primers, first published in 1975. With exercises and anthropomorphized limit machines, it is a period blend of delight and rigor.

This Dover reprint could be just the lifesaver for a struggling student vague on the fundamental issue of the \(\varepsilon\)-\(\delta\) definition of limit. Starting from the motivation of a need for defining smoothness, limits are tackled for the first 186 pages. Smoothness is elegantly brought back (“when is the curve…smooth enough so that you can find a…tangent?”) to motivate derivatives for the final sixty or so pages.

It is at that point this reader was finally comfortable with the empty parentheses notation leading to constructs such as “…start the ritual with \( f(\:) = 5(\:)^2 -3(\:)\)and let \(a=2\).” While integrals are not tackled here, limits and derivatives get a humorous and thorough investigation making this an entertaining and enlightening adjunct to any introductory calculus text.

Tom Schulte prepares students for calculus and beyond at Oakland Community College.

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