If there’s one thing Colin Clark, Richmond resident and retired UBC math professor of 30 years, knows, it’s math.
And he’s tried to capture some of that knowledge and experience in a new book he has just self-published called Math Overboard.
“It’s a book to completely review school mathematics from kindergarten to Grade 12 and make sense of it. Making sense of math could be a subtitle,” said Clark, adding it might sound like it’s a study book for high school students but it’s actually for any adult who wants to understand the logic behind mathematics.
Teaching for as long as he has, the 80-year-old math and physics major said he got the idea for the book after seeing students pay visits to his office time and time again with difficulties grasping concepts.
He didn’t have easy answers for them as most resources on the subject didn’t delve much deeper than memorizing formulas and read like, well, a math book.
“Math Overboard is extremely readable and really tries to explain what’s going on,” he said.
“It goes back to the laws of arithmetic — you need to know the laws to do algebra. It is absolutely fundamental to explain why something is true, such as why it doesn’t matter what order you add two numbers together, or multiply two numbers together.”
Clark believes the book is of particular use to undergrads, his original intended audience when he started writing.
As a first-year calculus professor on many occasions, Clark witnessed a lot of bright students drop out of their programs or switch majors because they simply couldn’t overcome the numbers hurdle. He believes some people may not have received good instruction in pre-university years, were absent during important classes, or just never picked it up.
“I had a student some years ago say ‘Look, I can’t hope to understand math but I need to pass this course. So if I memorize the techniques, will that work?’ said Clark.
“I said ‘no, that doesn’t work at the university level at all,’ and it didn’t. She failed.”
Math Overboard, which was three years in the making, features problems to solve on every page and diagnostic tests to help readers avoid future errors.
It comes in two parts — the first part, selling for $24 (US), was just released and covers up to Grade 10. The other part will be released in about three months, dealing with advanced topics, such as trigonometry and probability.
Clark has written five other books in the past, but were all intended for entirely different audiences with names like Mathematical Bioeconomics, he said.
Retiring in 1994, Clark has been involved in the field of math all his life. He once considered careers in both engineering and physics, but ended up finding a lot of enjoyment working with biologists.
“They had all the field data, and I had all the mathematical skills they needed to analyze that data,” said Clark.
For more information on the book or to purchase, visit the website at www.mathoverboard.com.