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Blog . iBooks make textbooks fun to use (Part 1: Math)

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iBooks make textbooks fun to use (Part 1: Math)

01/31/12  |  Posted by Amber Luning  |  Posted in Digital Canvas - Apps & Accessories

With the update of the iBooks app comes a plethora of new features. One such feature is the ability to download interactive textbooks from Apple's iBookstore. Why interactive textbooks? Well, for starters, interactivity promotes leaning and recall far past the sort of short term memorization most students use to study for and take exams. Secondly, interactivity is fun, and fun makes even the most droll of subjects more easily accessible. It is for this reason that the subject I've chosen to review first is Mathematics. Now, I am not a good student of mathematics, and never have been. My SAT scores on the subject were run of the mill at best, and that was only due to persistent and fanatical studying. But even as an artist, in an art school, there are a number of reasons why math is still important. Between budgeting material costs, programming for gaming and reactive installation, and even calculating the right temperature and time to cast glass, math has many uses in the art world and it isn't a safe subject to ignore now that you're out of high school. Be that as it may, most people in CIA will never take another math class in their lives, understandably, and their skills with it will falter as the years of nonpractice go by. So, you should get a few practice equations in every now and then, just to make sure you're not the one dropping your budget ball on a painting project, messing up your enameling in craft, or destroying your entire render due to a few misplaced variables in Biomed or TIME. Right now, the only math textbook available on the iBooks store is Pearson's Algebra 1 and McGraw Hill's Geometry, though more will be released in both easier and harder increments of mathematics as more books are adapted to the medium, or created anew specifically for it. So let us begin by looking at Pearson's Algebra 1. [caption id="attachment_2009" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Not sure what's up with the mechanical fish, but it's pretty cool anyway."][/caption] And we can start with chapter 2. Why? because we're artists. we're rebels. We go straight to chapter two if we want. Also, that was the free sample chapter available for me to use. [caption id="attachment_2015" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Giant dice. This is looking interesting already"][/caption] Now, by selecting the pages at the bottom of the screen you can start the lesson on one step algebraic equations. These actually do come in handy in everyday life, so it's pretty exciting. The actual factual lessons are laid out in much the same way as a traditional textbook, but there are occasional opportunities to get some extra learning in. Like the videos you can play with a tap of the finger, where a 3D animated lady will walk you through some of the trickier technical aspects of solving for x. [caption id="attachment_2011" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="The students of art history will recognize that pose as contrapasto"][/caption] The real fun comes in the review sections, where the answers are presented in much the same was as a standardized test mixed with an online survey, and realtime response to your correctness or incorrectness. I love this. I think it's great. The worst part of reviews in standard textbooks was always doing all of the problems, then looking up the answer key, deciphering the answer key, and grading your own test. This has none of that, and the bite-sized quizzes of two to six problems don't leave you burnt out on a particular operation. [caption id="attachment_2013" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Is it right? did I do good?"][/caption] [caption id="attachment_2012" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="YES!!!"][/caption] And for a self admitted math hater, I spent the better part of an hour and a half learning algebra again. Now I feel confident in my ability to calculate tips, estimate the cost of an installation, and bring my mold down from high temperatures without cracking the glass inside. Excellent! Now for the second available math text on the Ibooks store: Mc Graw Hill's Geometry. For some reason, this one's sample chapter was on triangles, which you might remember as being one of the more boring things about geometry. But we'll give it a shot. [caption id="attachment_2016" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Oooh, geometric morphing bubble ball. This one might be awesome"][/caption] And inside the front cover: [caption id="attachment_2017" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Bicycles make me think about triangles also."][/caption] So we can have a look at their educational interface: [caption id="attachment_2018" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="it's... no! it's a normal textbook!"][/caption] This book seems to simply be an ebook version of the McGraw Hill Geometry text. None of the problems are interactive or quizzlike, relying on the same solve, then look up answer key formula everyone seems to hate. I mean, they try to spice it up a bit with a rotatable model here and there, and a few personal tutor videos. [caption id="attachment_2019" align="alignnone" width="400" caption="Rotating the eiffel tower is only awesome for so long"][/caption] But in the end, this is an ebook adaptation of a text and not much more. I mean, you can still learn geometry from it, and it's better than buying a textbook for a hundred dollars, then using it as a coaster while you surf Reddit, but it isn't very impressive compared to Pearson's. In the end, we've established that not losing basic math skills is essential, no matter what major you go into, or what career. The iPad's interactive textbooks give you a fun and relatively cheap way of brushing up on your left brain exercise, without wanting to punch yourself in the kidneys in frustration with traditional math lessons. I suggest Pearson's over McGraw Hill for now, but who knows what will happen in the future? Perhaps another company will come out with a book that is so immersive, so fun, and so intuitive that it will barely feel like math at all. In fact, I eagerly await the day that they do. Stay tuned next week for the second part of this series: Natural Sciences. Happy learning to all of you. Both Pearson's Algebra 1 and McGraw Hill's Geometry are available on the iBookstore for $14.99. A worthy investment in the future of your brain and money, don't you think?

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