#WeHateMath Book Review – Mathematics for Information Technology

Today I’m looking at “Mathematics For Information Technology“, a textbook that I was assigned to teach a brand new class at our school, Technical Math. The course description reads as follows:

This course covers mathematical topics related to information technology using applied techniques. Topics include sets, logic, graphs, hexadecimal and binary numbers. Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to apply mathematical set logic to technical problems, create graphs applicable to information technology, and manipulate binary numbers.

When I first saw the book, I was intrigued by the title. It sounded like the solution to a problem, like “Physics For Poets” or “Rocks For Jocks“. The problem is that, unlike poetry-writing

or sports, information technology (or IT as we nerds prefer to call it) covers a broad range of activities, from data networking to computer programming to digital forensics. So, as an IT guy and a math guy, I was intrigued to see how the authors were going to thread this particular needle.

The short version: The book’s title writes a check that the text inside can’t cash.

To be fair, it makes a solid attempt. Here’s a list of the contents:

• Chapter 1 – Sets
• Chapter 2 – Logic
• Chapter 3 – Binary and Other Number Systems
• Chapter 4 – Straight-Line Equations and Graphs
• Chapter 5 – Solving Systems of Linear Equations Algebraically and with Matrices
• Chapter 6 – Sequences and Series
• Chapter 7 – Right-Triangle Geometry and Trigonometry
• Chapter 8 – Trigonometric Identities
• Chapter 9 – The Complex Numbers
• Chapter 10 – Vectors
• Chapter 11 – Exponential and Logarithmic Equations
• Chapter 12 – Probability
• Chapter 13 – Statistics
• Chapter 14 – Graph Theory

The writing style strikes a good balance between the overly pedantic style of some math books that are more about vocabulary and others that make embarrassing attempts to be ‘perky’ and ‘fun’. I appreciated the way that the authors started with a discussion of sets, which stands as a good foundation for the rest of the text. This also provides a nice segue into the following chapter on formal logic, which is another topic I wish made it’s way into more math classes. In addition, while the book covers a wide range of mathematical concepts, the chapters are written to be mostly standalone, so you can easily structure your class around the text. In addition, since it covers such a broad range of topics, it makes a good mathematical reference.

Unfortunately, the book falls short when it comes to connecting the math to actual IT topics. The chapter exercises are the usual problems you find in a math book and there isn’t even a token attempt to tie in the chapter topic to it’s role in information technology. When I taught the class, this job was left to me. In addition, the breadth of topics meant that no one area could be dealt with in any sort of depth.

All in all, this book is a mixed bag. While the authors should be commended for attempting a difficult task and they do a better than average job, the results fall short of expectations.

References

Basta, A., DeLong, S., & Basta, N. (2014). Mathematics for information technology. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar, Cengage Learning.