Thinking out Loud…

A super brief post here – hoping to find some great advice from the world outside.

Two years ago our school launched a Discrete Math course. We realized that we had a number of students who were not being served well by our curriculum – a relatively standard one, really – that served to deliver most of our students to the doorstep of Calculus. I loved Calculus as a student and I have been happy to teach some form of it for most of my teaching career. However, we realize as a department that not all of our students need to see Calculus as the pinnacle of their high school math career. We also offer AP Statistics but we still saw a groups of students who were not being served properly. We have a vision of this Discrete Math elective being a lively, provocative course that exposes these students to more (and different) mathematical ways of thinking. We adopted the text For All Practical Purposes (9th Ed) and in the first year we had the course, the publisher released a new edition. I am teaching the course this year and I really like the students in the course and I feel that we are making some real progress in showing a different side of mathematical thinking, something other than algebraic reasoning and equation-based mathematics. However, I am not thrilled with the text. I am not sure that the level of the writing is suited well to my kiddos and I spent most of the fall term writing my own problem sets. Since the text is not available anymore I am faced with a choice of moving on the the 10th edition, finding a new text to serve as the center of the course, or going text-free and writing/borrowing unit notes and problem sets to support the students.

I know that there are people who visit my space here who have experience with math electives outside of the algebra to Calculus stream. I would love to hear some advice from them either in the comments here or through my twitter feed (I am @mrdardy over in the twitterverse) The ability / interest level of the students varies in this group. Some are taking the math course out of good conscience/concern about the college process. They know it is a ‘good idea’ to have a fourth math course. Some are taking it to fill out their schedule. Some end up in it after dropping back a bit from another math course that was more of a challenge than we/they expected it to be. This year we spend some time on elementary statistics/probability already. We spend a little time in the fall getting ready for a last swing at standardized tests. We are currently immersed in a unit on elections and voting strategies. We will visit some finance ideas and we will dip our toes into graph theory / network theory ideas. I am not married to any of these particular ideas, but many of them pop up in most discrete math text options out there. I kind of love Jacobs’ text Mathematics: A Human Endeavor but it seems not to be currently in print and I do not want to go down the path of a text I cannot reliably get my hands on.

So, dear readers, I would appreciate any wisdom you can share from experiences at your schools.


3 thoughts on “Thinking out Loud…

  1. davidgriswoldhh

    I don’t know if this is really a discrete math option (it seems like that term can go a lot of directions) but one text I’ve used for fun extension-style problems that are somewhat outside of the normal track is “Mathematical Discovery”

    The website for the author(s), appears to be down right now, but you can get a free PDF copy by going to the Wayback Machine version:

    I also have a copy of the text in portrait format – e-mail or twitter DM me if you want me to share that to you.

    I don’t necessarily think you would want to use this as a primary text but if you decide to wing it on your own it might be a nice resource.

  2. Wendy Menard

    I taught a Discrete Math elective a couple of years ago; my school purchased For All Practical Purposes as well, although it didn’t suit the group of students I was teaching very well. I was in touch with a professor at Rutgers who was working on a textbook for Discrete Math specifically targeting high school students, and the bits that I got to look at were well written, and at the appropriate level. His name was Joe Rosenstein; you might want to reach out to him to find out if the book was finished and published.

  3. mrdardy Post author

    Wendy – thanks for checking in and thanks for reminding me about the DIMACS program over there at Rutgers. I will definitely look into that.


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