Power Tools for
Problem Solving

by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

It was the best of books, it was the worst of books.

      Well, it may not be "the best of books" but I think it's pretty good for teaching, for helping students learn. (but...*)  Many of its features are unique, not appearing (as far as I know) anywhere else.
      TIPS FOR EXPLORING THE BOOK describes ideas that you may find especially interesting and useful for teaching, and you can see the overall structure in a Table of Contents.

      But it was "the worst of books" for marketing, for selling books.  I wrote it for a wide audience, so it could serve as a supplement for any main textbook in any first-year course, taught either with or without calculus.  Although the book achieves this broad educational goal (in my opinion), publishers thought it was not practical for marketing (and I agree), mainly because the supplement written specifically for a publisher's own textbook would be "the easy choice" for instructors making decisions about what books to stock in the bookstore (next to the main textbook) and assign as required reading.  And, of course, the publisher of the main textbook would also want to "push" their own supplement (not mine) in their marketing.
      My wide-audience goal was based on optimistic hopes for widespread use and large sales.  In the marketing letter that was an appendix to a cover letter sent to publishers in 1989, I explained that "a stand-alone supplement has a large potential market.  Based on figures from April 1988's Physics Teacher article by Simon George (and from another source) the number of students in the non-calculus and calculus classes is about 250,000 + 200,000 = 450,000 students per year in the United States alone, plus possible international sales.  With a good book and good marketing, it might be possible to gain a part of this market: a 5% share would be 22,500 American students/year."  The potential of this large market interested some publishers in some ways (*), but nothing worked out.   {* But editors usually were more interested in adapting Physics: Power Tools to make a specialized supplement for their own textbooks. }
      If I had been wise about practical marketing, instead of writing a generalized book I would have contacted publishers in 1987 to ask if the authors of their main textbooks would be interested in using some of my innovative ideas (illustrated by samples included with my letter to them) in a collaboration as co-authors.  Well, basically that's what I'm doing now in making this book available on the web.

      * But my goal when writing this book was just to explain ideas-and-skills in ways that were logical and clear.  Since then, I've learned more about thinking, learning, and teaching (while earning a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction, and afterward), and now I realize that effective teaching requires more than just clear explanations.  For example, student learning can improve dramatically through a creative use of the techniques (computer simulations, clicker questions, and "Overview, Case Study" instruction) described here.  But I didn't know this in 1989, so I'll ask you to evaluate my book based on what it was intended to achieve, by simply asking “are its explanations logical and clear?”

I finished working on this book in July 1989 when I moved to Madison, and put it on the web in September 2005:

Physics: Power Tools for Problem Solving is copyrighted — © 1989 by Craig Rusbult — with all rights reserved, but I'm making it available so the ideas in it can be used, and you can use any parts of it for educational purposes.  If you want to use any parts for commercial purposes, please contact me:

This page is