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Calculus for Cats Review by Kris Price

Kenn Amdahl and Jim Loats, Ph. D.
Clearwater Publishing
PO Box 778
Broomfield, CO 80038

Calculus for Cats explains calculus using words instead of math problems. Early in the book, one reads, "Calculus is a tool for understanding things that change in relationship to each other. We use it to express the changing relationship in mathematical terms so we can predict the status of one variable when we know the other, and we use it to determine when the relationship itself changes, and to identify when one of the variables rises to its maximum or falls to its minimum." The book then goes on to give examples of this in real life (speed, measurement, volumes, slopes, etc.). 

In the beginning of the book, the authors explain why calculus tends to stump a lot of people and gives advice on how to study it. Then it's time to read about the different studies undertaken in a calculus textbook. Each topic is covered in its own brief chapter through discussions of real-life situations. The book is called Calculus for Cats because the authors use a lot of examples involving cats, and they also incorporate the idea of a "catmobile." It's very interesting how much calculus is covered when talking about a cat! The book is broken down into the following sections: Basic Ideas and Vocabulary, The Process of Differential Calculus, and Integral Calculus. 

One must have a good concept of algebra before reading this book as the authors make a lot of comparisons to algebraic concepts. I thought it was interesting that they state that people who have a difficult time understanding calculus often have not mastered algebra yet! They say, "We use calculus to describe the relationship, then we use the result in an algebra problem to actually extract the answer to our question. . . . Most people survive algebra classes without ever getting very good at it. When they try to take a calculus problem all the way to an answer, they stumble on the algebra, not the calculus, and get the wrong answer." That really made a lot of sense to me and will guide me through the high school years as my children decide what math to study each year. Before attempting calculus, I know now that my children must have a firm understanding of algebra first. 

I didn't get past trigonometry in high school. However, I do believe that if I had to learn calculus for some reason today, I would do better having Calculus for Cats available to explain the concepts a bit better. I've seen the inside of a calculus textbook and it's a bit scary at first sight! But Calculus for Cats takes this "scariness" and breaks it down into manageable chunks, explaining the how and why behind each type of problem. The book is almost 170 pages and retails for $14.95--a small price to pay for a better understanding of a tough subject! 

Product review by Kris Price, Assistant to the Publishers, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, June 2007