I are using the new Foerster book for the first time this year in BC Calculus after having used the various Thomas / Finney / Demanna / Waits sequence of editions for 25 years. Since I am just 7 weeks into the course, I certainly do not claim to be an expert, but I can at least offer some initial reactions. As with any new text -- especially this one with its format being so different from what I have been accustomed to -- it requires a significant amount of time and energy on my part on a daily basis. The text concentrates on conceptual understanding, yet so far seems to offer plenty of practice where analytical skills need reinforcement. The book is easily legible and understandable by the typical AP student -- to the point that for the first time in my career I feel that the class could carry on successfully in my absence for a time.
Each unit of the book is presented in a "bite-size" chunk with a couple of pages of explanation or exploration and a problem set that typically can be managed in one day, two at the most. In contrast, in my several years of using the newest T/F/D/W text, it seemed that it was difficult for the student to gleen the critical concepts of most units without an abundance of explanation by the teacher, and many of the problem sets seemed almost overwhelming in content, often combining several major topics and concepts that could stretch a unit into days of work. In fact, some of the units were so extensive that I often was concerned that I would accidentally overlook some critical topic myself. The Foerster text so far has flowed smoothly from topic to topic, and it seems that chapter breaks are virtually unnecessary except to create a reasonable unit for testing purposes. As with every course I teach, I make it a point never to solve homework problems myself in advance of the next day's class, so that whenever students question a problem, they can watch and hear and participate in my first-time analysis and solution. Although the new text has some excellent, challenging problems, I have found that there seem to be few "traps" for the teacher within the problem sets.
I especially have welcomed the fact that with the Foerster text the four-faceted approach of numerical, analytical, graphical, and verbal techniques seems to flow smoothly and to be integrated naturally, and the sequence and nature of topics lends itself readily to either lecture or individual exploration or group activities, making it especially easy to vary the daily routine in the class, even for a rather traditional teacher. It is obvious that the author is a classroom AP teacher who has put much thought into the organization and flow not only of the text itself, but also of the supplementary materials -- namely the solution manual, teacher's guide, and teacher's resource manual. These materials include critical pacing information, specific suggestions for daily assignments, sample tests on units and on chapters, exploratory handouts, and such. I have found these resources to be invaluable.
What about the negatives: I have found that some of my students have had a little trouble adapting to the conceptual nature of the text, having had Pre-Cal in a much more traditional format. Suddenly they have found themselves having to think and ponder far more on assignments and during tests, rather than largely racing through routine, analytical techniques. They are realizing that they MUST understand in order to be successful. As a result we are going to have to search for a more compatible text for the course preceeding this one.
I have found some of the questions in the problem sets and on the sample tests that require verbal responses to be somewhat awkward, especially at first -- regular questioning of "what have you just learned from this assignment or test that you didn't already know" seems to be a bit overdone, and questions designed to be answered into a student journal seem to need improvement.
After having spent months last year searching for a textbook with a colleague who also has taught AP for years, and finally deciding on the Foerster book, so far we both overall are very satisfied -- dare I say relieved? -- yet I am a little concerned about a couple of comments that I have seen from teachers who used Foerster last year without as good results as usual on the AP exam, but from what I see of the course so far, I am optimistic. One of our main motives for the change was to better match the methods of questioning that are being included on the AP exam these days, and this new text seems to fill those gaps that have given our students some trouble on the test in recent years.
Realizing that the above comments are initial reactions resulting from very limited exposure, I have probably said too much already, but as the course proceeds I will be happy to respond to anyone who might want more information or opinion.
I too am looking at the possibility of changing texts. Please post >to the whole list as I think there may be many of us considering >the Foerster book. I have a copy but would very much like to hear/read >what others think about this book. > >Regards, > >Tricia Potts > > >On Mon, 6 Oct 1997, David or Linda Hollar wrote: > >> Has anyone piloted the Foerster Calculus book? We adopt in 99, so I'm >> beginning to look at the newest texts. >> >> Linda Hollar >> Watauga High School >> Boone, NC 28607 >>