Saturday, December 12, 2009

Music jazzes up prof's algebra textbooks

Sharon Ho
Issue date: 11/30/09

Prentice Hall published Nov 5. the fourth edition of math Professor John Jeffrey Lehmann's intermediate algebra textbook.

Intermediate Algebra: Functions and Authentic Applications retails for $143 on

Lehmann, 47, has taught at CSM for 20 years.

"Publishers are the ones who decide the price of a book," said Lehmann. "Authors typically get 10 to 15 percent of book sale proceeds."

"My Mathlab is bundled with my books as a way for students to save money," said Lehmann. "The e-book comes free with Mymathlab. For me, I require students to have MyMathLab only for my online classes as students need it to do online homework."

"My Mathlab by itself retails for $75," said CSM bookstore manager James Peacock. "The e-book is only valid for 18 months and can be accessed only by one unique user."

Students should verify with their instructors if MyMathLab is required, Lehmann said. Students will be able to rent or buy used textbooks if their instructors do not require MyMathLab for their classes.

Seven fall Math classes currently use the third edition of Intermediate Algebra. Lehmann uses his 2007 Beginning Algebra textbook to teach his online Math 100 class.

"Jay Lehmann's math textbooks are used across the nation, not just at CSM," said Peacock.

Lehmann began writing Intermediate Algebra 15 years ago in 1995. The first and third editions were published in 1998 and 2007.

"There is a need to come up with new editions every three to four years as my math textbooks use a lot of data; I need to update them in order to stay current," said Lehmann.

About 15 to 20 percent of a book's content needs to be changed before a book can become a new edition, said Lehmann.

The first few editions are essential for authors to act on users' feedback to make corrections and add new features, said Lehmann. Later editions are needed partly for business reasons, for both publishers and authors, and partly to stay relevant in a highly competitive college textbook industry.

Lehmann estimated that about 20 people were involved in the production of the book. "They were salaried people employed by the publisher; only the author gets a commission."

Lehmann wrote his math textbooks in response to students' comments that math textbooks available on the market were boring and dry.

"Before, students often came up to me to ask 'Why are we learning all this (algebra) for?'," said Lehmann. "In 13 years of using my textbooks to teach, I have been asked that question only once."

All of Lehmann's textbook covers feature a guitar; within the pages of his textbooks are examples of Lehmann using mathematical theory to explain music and even the dimensions of the guitar.

Lehmann graduated from University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana with a B.A. in Mathematics in 1985 and an M.S. in Mathematics from Claremont Graduate School in 1986. Lehmann taught part-time at Chabot College and Diablo Valley College before coming to CSM in 1989.

In his rare spare time between teaching and writing textbooks, Lehmann performs with his band The Procrastinistas.

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