This textbook has a design that is just about perfectly backwards
compared to most textbooks that currently cover the subject. Here are
its primary design features:
- All mathematics required by the student is reviewed at the beginning of the book rather than in an appendix that many students
- There are only twelve chapters. The book is organized so
that it can be sanely taught in a single college semester with at
most a chapter a week.
- It begins each chapter with an ``abstract'' and chapter
summary. Detail, especially lecture-note style mathematical detail,
follows the summary rather than the other way around.
- This text does not spend page after page trying to explain
in English how physics works (prose which to my experience nobody reads
anyway). Instead, a terse ``lecture note'' style presentation outlines
the main points and presents considerable mathematical detail to support
- Verbal and conceptual understanding is, of course, very
important. It is expected to come from verbal instruction and
discussion in the classroom and recitation and lab. This textbook relies on having a committed and competent instructor and a sensible
- Each chapter ends with a short (by modern standards)
selection of challenging homework problems. A good student might
well get through all of the problems in the book, rather than at most
10% of them as is the general rule for other texts.
- The problems are weakly sorted out by level, as this text is
intended to support non-physics science and pre-health profession
students, engineers, and physics majors all three. The material
covered is of course the same for all three, but the level of detail and
difficulty of the math used and required is a bit different.
- The textbook is entirely algebraic in its presentation and
problem solving requirements - with very few exceptions no
calculators should be required to solve problems. The author assumes
that any student taking physics is capable of punching numbers into a
calculator, but it is algebra that ultimately determines the
formula that they should be computing. Numbers are used in problems
only to illustrate what ``reasonable'' numbers might be for a given
real-world physical situation or where the problems cannot reasonably be
solved algebraically (e.g. resistance networks).
This layout provides considerable benefits to both instructor and
student. This textbook supports a top-down style of learning,
where one learns each distinct chapter topic by quickly getting the main
points onboard via the summary, then deriving them or exploring them in
detail and applying them to example problems, and finally asking the
students to use what they have started to learn in highly challenging
problems that cannot be solved without a deeper level of
understanding than that presented in the text.
Robert G. Brown