This question applies to solely books already accompanied by an ISM ("Instructor's Solution Manual) — access is restricted to instructors. Some don't even sell a SSM (Students' Solution Manual) that provide solutions for just half of the exercises.

How can I persuade an author by emailing her to release the ISM to students? Has anyone succeeded in this?

Here are my three rebuttals to most authors' defense — [t]eachers often use textbooks to assign homework problems. If they give a key to all problems, the teachers will have to use a different resource which will be a hassle for students as well.

  1. Instructors can assign exercises from another book, without divulging their choice of textbook to students. Multiple textbooks cover most topics in undergraduate math and statistics.

  2. Some authors deliberately make the half of exercises without solutions (even numbered) harder. Even if a SSM provides solutions for the easier other half, then students get to practice just easier questions to their disservice.

  3. Even if a SSM accompanies a book, students have to buy another textbook or Schaum's problem book for more practice. Students and libraries have to spend more money buying this second book. cond book.

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    $\begingroup$ About rebuttal 1: It's easier for me to assign a question from the textbook than (by just saying "Exercise x on page y") to copy out a whole exercise from another book. Multiply this "easier" by the number of exercises assigned in a semester, and "easier" becomes "a lot easier". Also, if the textbook has solutions for only the odd-numbered exercises, I can assign even-numbered ones and recommend that the students also work on nearby odd-numbered ones when studying for exams. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 17:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Andreas Blass: FYI, I see the OP's concern as mostly a non-issue, certainly not given the rebuttals you raised. Maybe this depends on the level and subject, but given that the screen name "Secondary school" is used, I assume we're talking about prealgebra to precalculus level math, and surely class lectures, textbook examples, and other similar examples that students can easily find or teachers can suggest (e.g. internet sites) give students more than enough examples. I often used to write solutions for students to my near-daily quizzes and sometimes for selected homework problems, as needed. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ @DaveLRenfro I'm asking for university math, particularly undergrad math. I changed my username. $\endgroup$
    – user15364
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect "some" in your rebuttal 2 is extremely rare. I don't recall ever noticing something like this in textbooks with odd-numbered (or even-numbered) answers/solutions, and over the past 40+ years there are hundreds of texts with partial answers that I've looked at sufficiently to have noticed something like this in one of them. What I have seen a lot is that "answers" are often omitted when the result is a lengthy proof or something that can't easily be given (or when multiple "answer representations" are possible), but in these cases you don't have a clear even/odd answer split. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 8:02
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    $\begingroup$ I have a fairly popular free text, and provide the fully-worked answers to all exercises. I have many times heard from instructors that they cannot adopt the text because of that. So if authors believe that providing full answers will cut into their adoptions, it is with reason. (FWIW, your rebuttal (1) reads to me as, "Instructors could, by doing more work, ..." Forgive my bluntness, but that is naive.) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 22:34

2 Answers 2


Welcome to matheducators.SE! It's great to have an undergraduate student participating in the site.

The question is basically written as if this were the year 1996, when I started my teaching career. Today, we have the internet.

Your question includes a lot of money-related material. There is no fundamental reason why students need to keep getting financially exploited by the textbook publishers. For the undergrad math and stat courses you're talking about, there are generally multiple free options on the internet. Most instructors just don't care about the economic victimization of their students. They've gotten used to using a particular non-free textbook, and they're not going to change now, because it would be work.

Your question is written as though the mechanism for economic victimization were still the cost of the books, but this is no longer true, because you can get your book for free on the internet at http://libgen.rs/ . For lower-division math, the mechanism for economic victimization is no longer the cost of accessing the book, it's the cost of an account on a system like mymathlab. Again, there are nonexploitative alternatives (e.g., WeBWorK), and again, most instructors don't use them because they're used to using the expensive thing already and changing over would be work.

Your question is written as though instructors could still keep secrets from their students:

Instructors can assign exercises from another book, without divulging their choice of textbook to students.

This won't work, because the internet exists. If your instructor assigns you a problem, and you don't know what book it's from, cut and paste the text into a search engine. The first hit will be on chegg.com, your central resource for cheating and copyright violation.

And finally, your question is written as though it still made sense for teachers to be assigning problems for points and making those points enough to have a big effect on their students' grades. This does not make sense today, because students can easily get solutions from chegg.

I'm the author of some free physics texts (and also one free math text). About half of the problems have already been illegally copied onto chegg, and have solutions available there. Because of this, I've given up on using homework grades as more than a feedback and progress-tracking thing. (I count them for 1% of my students' grades.) My students check their machine-checkable answers using free sotfware, and I grade their non-machine-checkable answers by hand. After that, I email them solutions.

Your question is somewhat helpful in that, although I don't agree with almost any of your logic, you made me rethink whether I want to simply put the solutions in the books at this point. I don't see any significant benefit to doing that, except perhaps for some small number of students who are using the books for self-study and can't get an instructor to comment on their work. The downside is that many of the people using my books don't agree with my opinions and therefore are still giving 10 or even 20% of their students' grades for homework. Those people would probably be very upset with me and stop using my book.

For your own education, given the reality of how the courses you're taking are being run, I would suggest that you simply work hard to solve the problems without access to the solutions. Get going far enough in advance so that if you get stuck, you have time to get help. You can get help by going to your TA or instructor's office hours, or to an on-campus tutoring center. If you want examples with solutions, use the examples in your textbook -- most commercial texts have a huge number of these in every chapter.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi! Thanks for the warm welcome! I'm actually a graduate student. I'm TA'ing an undergrad math course. $\endgroup$
    – user15364
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 3:52
  • $\begingroup$ "you made me rethink whether I want to simply put the solutions in the books at this point". I don't require this in my post. All of the solutions can be posted online. $\endgroup$
    – user15364
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 4:07
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    $\begingroup$ It's great to have an undergraduate student --- I didn't see anything that said the OP was a student except that the question seems more reasonable coming from a student, but the wording of the question led me to believe the OP was a teacher (and this was the perspective I had when writing my earlier comments in this thread, such as saying that I sometimes handed out solutions to frequently given quizzes for the students' benefit). However, now it seems we know the OP is a graduate TA, and thus has limited time and less control over what is presented in the classroom. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 7:01

I don't think you can convince them. The practice has evolved for marketing reasons. (I have seen a couple recent books where it was explicitly said in the preface that the author cut answers for 50% of the book in a later edition, to appeal to the market.) And you won't change this dynamic. It appeals to gatekeeper instructors (even though they rationalize the practice with other excuses...which you won't get them to change those either). Of course this sucks for students really trying to learn the topic by drill and check. In other words, I agree with you. But you won't change the practice. There's many ways that college is a ripoff (look at the whole textbook new edition and defeat the resale market racket also).

Just buy (or assign, but I get the impression you are a student) a Schaum's or similar drill book.

I have seen occasional books that do have all/most of the answers: Thomas Finney calculus (at least the old editions), Tenanbaum ODE, Weinberger PDE.

I have also occasionally seen texts that had a purchasable solution guide with full answers and even hand written, reproduced, full solutions. Lindeberg EIT/PE books (obviously mostly for the self study market, thus not needing to market to gatekeepers). But also I had an organic chem test (Streitweiser and Heathcock, I think) that had this.

P.s. It is interesting to me that this is a "how do I convince" or "what are arguments for position A" question. Have seen a fair amount of these. You will get more help when the forum community agrees with the proposition. (E.g. why proofs are dreamy and calculations suck.) You will get less when asking "not A" in terms of community norms.


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