Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mathematics for Sustainability - due for delivery!

Remember the Mathematics for Sustainability project that I used to talk about a lot?  (Hint: here are some links to earlier blog posts: one, two, three, four, five.   I could easily find more!)

The Math for Sustainability course (MATH 033) has been running for a couple of years now at Penn State. But it was never my dream just to teach this material on one campus or in one university system.

Today, I'm so happy to tell you that - together with my wonderful coauthors Russ deForest and Shahrzad (Sara) Jamshidi, pictured below - we have signed a contract with a major mathematics publisher to produce a textbook based on the Math for Sustainability materials - a textbook which will make it possible for this course to be taught at any college or university in the world.

Sara Russ
The book will be published by Springer-Verlag in their series Mathematics of Planet Earth.  It will be around 500 pages long, printed in full color, and will use only the math that you learn in high school.  The print book should cost around 60 bucks, and it will also be available online (for instance, Penn State students will be able to access the book online for free, because Penn State Libraries have a deal with Springer to give online access to all their books and journals.)  Remember, the audience we are aiming for is those college students who have to take "just one last math course" to fulfill a general education requirement.  My elevator pitch to them: "Okay, you have to take a math course. Would you rather learn the quadratic formula or would you rather save the planet?" There's quite an uptake for the second option!

We've undertaken to deliver the final manuscript at the beginning of July and, if there aren't any hold-ups in reviewing or production, we should see the first printed copies by the end of this year or early in 2018.  The kind of basic ability to think for oneself about sustainability questions, which we hope this book teaches, has seldom been so important to our world and to the future generations which the book is intended to reach.

Snippet of the book's preface  (click for full size)

Mind, when I have one, I probably should send a free copy to the White House as well!


David said...

This is wonderful! Can't wait to look at your book! I really hope this course gets picked up by many other universities.

Russ Pierson said...

Hurray! John, it is so satisfying (even from afar) to see this project come to fruition!

All the best,


Tom J said...

Looking forward to seeing the book. Sustainability, being all about predicting the future, really relies on mathematics and I hope this brings the concepts to a wider audience.

One question though: in the internet era, why did you decide to publish with a major publisher rather than simply making it available in PDF format online? Would it not read a wider audience then, particularly outside developed countries where money is limited but knowledge on this subject is important?

John Roe said...

In response to Tom J - Thanks for your thoughts. Two quick responses (1) I think that the "clout" of a major publisher will actually help this material get a wider hearing (2) We've been teaching this material for several years now and have heard repeated requests from students for a physical book.

Tom J said...

Thank you for your response. So perhaps a publisher-supported book in combination with a freely disseminated online version would be the best of both worlds - although I doubt any publisher would agree to that.

Best of luck with the book!


Vampire Black Cat said...

I was quite disappointed when one of the people involved in this book reached out to be for usage of a photograph I took, with no intention of ever paying for licensing. Are the authors, publisher etc not getting paid?

Im sure you wont publish this comment.

John Roe said...

Hi there, Vampire Black Cat. Had to do a little searching to figure out which photo you are referring to, but I believe it is the photo of the Canadian lynx which also appears on the Wikipedia page with that title (a lovely picture, BTW). A student who is helping me with the project reached out to you about licensing, as you said, but the fee you requested is beyond our budget, so we will be looking for alternatives (and not using your photo, of course). I am sorry if this was not clear and wish you the best - John Roe