Friday, March 8, 2013

A Fabulous Free Source for Learning Linear Algebra

College textbooks have become notoriously, outrageously expensive, and publishers often play a game of bringing out new editions that have relatively little new material but just enough new material that a student can't really get by with an older, much less expensive, used copy.

Well, if you're taking or teaching linear algebra or are otherwise interested in the subject, there are some great free sources for you, thanks to my colleague at the University of Puget Sound, Rob Beezer, Professor Mathematics. Rob and I share an interest in the possibilities of online publishing, print-on-demand, and so on--he from the math world, I from the poetry and fiction and teaching creative writing worlds.

So check out Rob's site:

The first paragraph you'll see there is . . .

A First Course in Linear Algebra is an introductory textbook designed for university sophomores and juniors. Typically such a student will have taken calculus, but this is not a prerequisite. The book begins with systems of linear equations, then covers matrix algebra, before taking up finite-dimensional vector spaces in full generality. The final chapter covers matrix representations of linear transformations, through diagonalization, change of basis and Jordan canonical form. Along the way, determinants and eigenvalues get fair time. There is a comprehensive online edition and PDF versions are available to download for printing or on-screen viewing. Physical copies may be purchased from the print-on-demand service at

So, if you want a "hard" copy you MAY buy one, but you don't have to. You may download a pdf or read the book online. And here the address for the online version:

And here is a link to "Knowls," which enhances your browsing experience for such math-related things.

Sadly, although Rob and I share an interest in the Creative Commons, free or near-free textbooks, print-on-demand, and so on, linear algebra to me looks mainly like some mighty pretty hieroglyphics. I did well in Algebra I in high school. Like Wordsworth, I also really dug geometry. Then things started to fuzzy with Algebra II, and I finally got lost in the wilderness of trigonometry.

But if you've forged on ahead and are exploring linear algebra, check out Rob's fabulous free and excellent textbook material, which includes not just answers to the problems but examples of how one gets to the right answer.
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