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Precalculus: An Investigation of Functions
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Precalculus: An Investigation of Functions

Author(s): David Lippman and Melonie Rasmussen
Publication Date: 2011
License: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License

Excerpts from the Preface:

David Lippman wrote:
In writing this book, our focus was on the story of functions. We begin with function notation, a basic toolkit of functions, and the basic operation with functions: composition and transformation. Building from these basic functions, as each new family of functions is introduced we explore the important features of the function: its graph, domain and range, intercepts, and asymptotes. The exploration then moves to evaluating and solving equations involving the function, finding inverses, and culminates with modeling using the function.

The "rule of four" is integrated throughout - looking at the functions verbally, graphically, numerically, as well as algebraically. We feel that using the "rule of four" gives students the tools they need to approach new problems from various angles. Often the "story problems of life" do not always come packaged in a neat equation. Being able to think critically, see the parts and build a table or graph a trend, helps us change the words into meaningful and measurable functions that model the world around us.

There is nothing we hate more than a chapter on exponential equations that begins "Exponential functions are functions that have the form f(x)=a^x." As each family of functions is introduced, we motivate the topic by looking at how the function arises from life scenarios or from modeling. Also, we feel it is important that precalculus be the bridge in level of thinking between algebra and calculus. In algebra, it is common to see numerous examples with very similar homework exercises, encouraging the student to mimic the examples. Precalculus provides a link that takes students from the basic plug & chug of formulaic calculations towards building an understanding that equations and formulas have deeper meaning and purpose. While you will find examples and similar exercises for the basic skills in this book, you will also find examples of multistep problem solving along with exercises in multistep problem solving. Often times these exercises will not exactly mimic the exercises, forcing the students to employ their critical thinking skills and apply the skills they've learned to new situations. By developing students' critical thinking and problem solving skills this course prepares students for the rigors of Calculus.

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