REVIEW - An Introduction to C++ and Numerical Methods

Title:

An Introduction to C++ and Numerical Methods

Author:

James M. Ortega, Andrew Swift Grimshaw

ISBN:

0195117670

Publisher:

Oxford University Press on Demand (1999)

Pages:

273pp

Reviewer:

Francis Glassborow

Reviewed:

August 2000

Rating:

★☆☆☆☆

This book is the second of my disappointments. Look at the title and decide what you think it means. Is it C++, numerical methods or both that are being introduced? Well in my opinion the authors intend to use numerical methods as a vehicle for introducing C++ while occasionally pointing out some of the hazards with numerical programming.

My background in maths enables me to feel comfortable that they understand numerical methods, however I am dubious as to their qualifications for teaching programming and I am staggered at the ineptitude of some of their code and the poor quality of many of their exercises. For example exercise 4.8 gives you one of the standard series for evaluating cos(x) and asks you to write a program for it, while the preceding question finishes with the requirement:

Then inside the while loop add an if statement and a break statement so as to terminate the loop if n exceeds nmax.

What competent programmer would dream of doing it that way? Giving no guidance for a solution is more tolerable than pointing the student at such a poor quality one.

The following exercise asks the student to determine the value of j (assuming it is an

int
) after exit from the following code:

for(int i = 0; i<=8; i = i + 2) {     j = j + 1;      i = i + 1;  }
I simply do not think that is a sensible way to work. Any good student would turn round and say that the code is plain silly.

The book is riddled with this kind of inept exercises compounded by example code that is little better.

The C++ coding style is from before the dinosaurs and it is a long time since I last saw an old fashioned flow chart in a book on programming. I have to ask where these authors have been over the last decade.

The book also lacks balance. Anyone who needs the kind of simplistic coding that these authors use will be scared witless by some of the mathematics, while being bored to tears by some of the rest. Someone needs to sit these two University Professors down and explain to them about consistency of level, you really must not jump around from the trivial to the profound. You must also put in the hours mastering other people disciplines before jumping in and writing books like this one.

The real people to blame are the publishers. They really must start seeking proper professional advice about the merits of a book before publishing. Peer review just does not cut it, they all spend time being nice to each other either because they do not know any better, or because of professional loyalty or because the vicious ones want a rival to go into print with a bad book.

I would welcome a second opinion on this book, just in case I have over reacted to the weaknesses in the book.


Book cover image courtesy of Open Library.