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Tiiba comments on The Best Textbooks on Every Subject - Less Wrong

167 Post author: lukeprog 16 January 2011 08:30AM

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Comment author: Tiiba 16 January 2011 07:09:07PM 2 points [-]

In college, I found most of the time that the professor's lecture notes contain almost everything of value that both the textbook and the lecture contains, but they contain ten times less text. This led me to believe that textbooks are a terribly inefficient way to convey facts, by comparison to the format of lecture notes. Books are words, words, words, flowery metaphors, digressions, etc. Hell, I don't know what they spend all those words on. But I know that, potentially, lecture notes are one fact after another.

Comment author: prase 17 January 2011 06:07:27PM 1 point [-]

I join NihilCredo and lukeprog in this. Textbooks usually have less text than what I would find ideal, not more. Lecture notes (and many textbooks which seemingly obey the even formula to text ratio) take me more time to read than a book which contains the same number of formulas and four times as much text. I can't continue reading after having stumbled upon something which looks like an inconsistency, non-sequitur or counterintuitive definition (that usually first happens on page 5 or so) and then have to spend time trying to find out what is wrong (and if I fail, then must spend some more time persuading myself that it doesn't matter and reading can continue). On the other hand, if the author spends some time and pages explaining, such events occur much less frequently.

Comment author: Tiiba 17 January 2011 06:54:52PM 0 points [-]

You guys do what works for you, and I'll do what works for me. Maybe I just don't have the patience. Or maybe you don't have something required to understand lossily compressed info. Or both. I just know that books take all day long and help as much as short online tutorials. And the tutorials are often free.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 23 January 2011 08:22:27PM 2 points [-]

How about you start a thread for recommending online tutorials?

Comment author: tel 18 January 2011 04:11:53PM 0 points [-]

If lecture notes contain as much relevant information as a book, then you should be able to, given a set of notes, write a terse but comprehensible textbook. If you're genuinely able to get that much out of notes, then yes that definitely works for you.

The concern is instead if reading a textbook only conveys a sparse, unconvincing, and context-free set of notes (which is my general impression of most lecture notes I've seen).

Both depend heavily on the quality of notes, textbook, subject, and the learning style you use, but I think it's a lot of people's experience that lecture notes alone convey only a cursory understanding of a topic. Practically enough sometimes, test-taking enough surely, but never too many steps toward mastery.

Comment author: NihilCredo 17 January 2011 11:27:55AM 2 points [-]

I usually find that (good) textbooks can let you learn the subject matter by yourself, whereas lecture notes are excellent reference material but, if you didn't attend the lectures, they're just not going to make for good building material on their own.

Comment author: lukeprog 16 January 2011 07:26:40PM 8 points [-]

I find all those extra words surrounding the bare facts in textbooks to be highly useful. That's what helps me not just memorize the teacher's password but really understand the material at a gut level.

Comment author: Tiiba 16 January 2011 08:11:28PM 0 points [-]

They get ME bored. Every book is six hundred to a thousand pages, and when you're done with it, you've got a hundred pages worth of knowledge. I think it's better to memorize some passwords, then separately look up specific ideas that didn't make sense.

Comment author: lukeprog 16 January 2011 08:13:59PM 1 point [-]

Fair enough. :)

I love reading a good textbook. Good nonfiction is so much more exciting for me than good fiction. And of course, I learn far more from good nonfiction.