The Manga Guide to Calculus
Publisher: No Starch Press
Final Release Date: August 2009
Pages: 256

Noriko is just getting started as a junior reporter for the Asagake Times. She wants to cover the hard-hitting issues, like world affairs and politics, but does she have the smarts for it? Thankfully, her overbearing and math-minded boss, Mr. Seki, is here to teach her how to analyze her stories with a mathematical eye.

In The Manga Guide to Calculus, you'll follow along with Noriko as she learns that calculus is more than just a class designed to weed out would-be science majors. You'll see that calculus is a useful way to understand the patterns in physics, economics, and the world around us, with help from real-world examples like probability, supply and demand curves, the economics of pollution, and the density of Shochu (a Japanese liquor).

Mr. Seki teaches Noriko how to:

  • Use differentiation to understand a function's rate of change
  • Apply the fundamental theorem of calculus, and grasp the relationship between a function's derivative and its integral
  • Integrate and differentiate trigonometric and other complicated functions
  • Use multivariate calculus and partial differentiation to deal with tricky functions
  • Use Taylor Expansions to accurately imitate difficult functions with polynomials

Whether you're struggling through a calculus course for the first time or you just need a painless refresher, you'll find what you're looking for in The Manga Guide to Calculus.

This EduManga book is a translation from a bestselling series in Japan, co-published with Ohmsha, Ltd. of Tokyo, Japan.

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Fun with Calculus

By Frank M.

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    Comments about oreilly The Manga Guide to Calculus:

    Reviewed by Ken Rogers, GCPCUG Member

    Calculus is about describing relationships, about demonstrating how you can start with x and end up with y. If y is a product, a function, of x, calculus provides the formula that explains this cause and effect relationship. Of course, cause and effect relationships aren't limited to the world of mathematics – but if you can produce a mathematical formula that accurately describes a real-world relationship (such as the effect of environmental change on crop production, or the impact of consumer spending on stock prices), you can predict the future outcome of current events, how x in the present will lead to y in the future.

    This belief in calculus's ability to describe real-world relationships is at the heart of The Manga Guide to Calculus, another in No Starch Press's fascinating line of technical guides illustrated in manga, the distinctive Japanese style of cartooning. Like the other books in this series, the calculus guide does not shrink away from the complexity of its subject. If you have any hint of an inner math geek, you'll be delighted by the pages upon pages of formulas, graphs, and theorems in this book. Conversely, if you're looking for a light read or a dummy's guide to the subject, you probably won't appreciate what this book has to offer.

    Also familiar to the series are the characters and plot devices that guide the reader through the subject. The book is told primarily through the perspective of Noriko, a young woman with a burning desire to become an influential journalist, but with no idea how to realize her dreams. Her first assignment has her working for Mr. Seki, an accomplished young journalist who has recently been demoted to the small branch office where Noriko gets her start. (Indulge me in a quick side comment – each of the three books I've read in this series has featured an ambitious but naïve female being instructed by a clearly brighter male . I won't meet anyone's definition of a feminist, but I do hope that subsequent books in this series will provide some variation on these roles. Thank you – now back to our regularly scheduled review.)

    Noriko soon finds that Seki is not your typical journalist. Barely interested in writing style or interviewing techniques, Seki is an unapologetic math nerd (his colleagues dub him Mr. Calculus) who believes in the power of math to describe the workings of society – as he puts it, "if you can approximate what you want to know with a simple function, you can see the answer more clearly." Much to Noriko's surprise, Seki then trains her on the finer points of linear and approximate functions, differentiation and integration, exponential and logarithmic functions, and the fundamental theorems of calculus. To demonstrate math's real-world relevance, Seki explains formulas that describe how television commercials affect corporate profits, the appeal of choreography, the relationship between wages and stock dividends, and the appearance and movement of bubbles in carbonated beverages. In true manga fashion, the action is swift and fanciful, as Seki and Noriko quickly change their appearance or become part of the formulas they are explaining.

    Noriko often explodes with anxiety and frustration, but she is a quick student who discovers the reason behind Seki's mysterious demotion. In keeping with the spirit of the book, she uses a mathematical function to show Seki how he can restore his reputation and career. While Seki is a fairly static character throughout the book – think of him as that staid but amiable teacher you remember from high school – Noriko is dynamic and engaging, a perfect guide and companion for the reader.

    This book isn't for everyone – those who find math intimidating will be quickly overwhelmed, and those seeking a refresher course in calculus may find it incomplete – but for young readers with an interest in mathematics and an appreciation for comics, The Manga Guide to Calculus is highly recommended

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