Tuesday, April 26, 2016

AIM Open Textbooks in Mathbook XML Workshop (almost live updates)

David Farmer, Rob Beezer and others are developing an open markup language, Mathbook XML, to typeset mathematical texts in a way that facilitates publication in a variety of formats (e.g. html, pdf, e-book).  As part of that development, they seek authors willing to engage the new platform and provide feedback for development.

The American Institute of Mathematics is hosting a workshop with the developers and open texbook authors this week that is focused around open textbooks and Mathbook XML.  Rob Beezer and Tom Judson are both posting daily reports on the workshop at their blogs:
The posts so far have been pretty informative.  I wish I was there.

Lakeland and Lorain Community Colleges Support Open-Source Textbook

Jeff Zeager recently shared the following news:
Carl Stitz and I have been granted sabbaticals from our respective institutions for Fall 2016 to edit and enhance the Stitz-Zeager Precalculus book.  It is our intention to have the 4th edition ready by January 2017. 
The .pdf version of the book along with all of the LaTeX code will be posted on our website www.stitz-zeager.com when we're done with the revisions.
Of course, this is good news for their project, but it also shows that their respective institutions, Lorain County Community College and Lakeland Community College, are willing to commit resources to support and advance an open-source textbook.  Both institutions should be applauded for their support.  If you find yourself in a similar position--trying to justify a sabbatical to work on an open-source project--perhaps point at these two colleges as precedent.

We look forward to the next edition of the text.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Elementary Abstract Algebra: Examples and Applications

Elementary Abstract Algebra: Examples and Applications is a new open-source abstract algebra text by a number of contributors: Justin Hill, Chris Thron (eds), Thomas Judson, Dave Witte Morris, Joy Morris, A. J. Hildebrand, Holly Webb, Johnny Watts and David Weathers. 

According to editor Chris Thron:
"The treatment is far more elementary than any other book on abstract algebra that we've seen. The text is designed for students who are planning to become secondary-school teachers. We particularly emphasize material that has relevance to high-school math, as well as practical applications."
The link above will lead to both on-line (html) and pdf versions of the text.  Print-on-demand copies are available through Lulu.  There is also a series of supporting YouTube videos.

If you have used the text in its current form, please consider writing a review for the MAA Reviews website.  The previous blog posting describes best practices for doing so.

As a follow up to this blog posting, I hope to get some insight into how this large number of collaborators managed to work together.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

MAA Reviews of Open Source Texts

The Mathematical Association of America (MAA) maintains a book review site called MAA Reviews where volunteers review math-related texts.  The site hosts reviews of traditionally published texts, but also accepts reviews of open-source texts.  For example, Vic Reiner and I wrote a review of Guichard's Calculus text a while back.

The editor of MAA Reviews, Fernando GouvĂȘa, is quite supportive of including reviews of open-source texts on the site.  Though he lightly lamented in an email exchange with me:
We are definitely willing and interested. The difficulty is that
usually the only reward I can offer my reviewers is a free copy of the
book they are to review; as a result, it is always harder to find
reviewers for open-source texts.
For a while, I went on a one-man mission to recruit reviews of open-source texts for the site.  My self-imposed best practice was that the reviewer not be an author of the text and had to have taught at least one class using the text.  Here's a list of some of the MAA Reviews I "recruited" during this period:
I had a process where I'd identify a candidate text, usually through word of mouth.  Then I'd reach out to the author(s) and see if they knew of someone using the text that I could solicit a review from.  Then I'd reach out to the recommended reviewer and solicit the review for MAA Reviews.

After a while, other things made claims on my time, leaving me less active in this pursuit.  However, this is a good way to get open-source texts some exposure.  Further, a favorable review in MAA Reviews might help the author(s) get some credit for their work at their home institutions.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

NSF research study proposal, open textbooks and mathematics software

From the hopefully better late than never file:  Rob Beezer asked me to post this a couple of weeks ago (sorry Rob).  The deadline for applications was Dec 24, 2015, but contact Rob if you have something that might work for his proposal.

The UTMOST Project investigates the affordances and challenges of integrating powerful open source software for advanced mathematics (i.e. Sage) with textbooks and course materials provided with open licenses and available in a variety of formats. The project seeks to understand the ways in which these tools change instruction of undergraduate mathematics courses and the opportunities to learn that are created with these tools.

We are proposing a research project to the National Science Foundation's Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) program and are soliciting the participation of undergraduate mathematics faculty to be part of this research study.  Please see the more detailed proposal description (pdf), or follow this link to learn about the activities, stipends and application procedure.

Monday, December 7, 2015

How Did Hefferon's Linear Algebra Make It To Amazon?

If you go to Amazon.com and search for "hefferon linear algebra" you'll find that Jim Hefferon's open source text, "Linear Algebra", is listed there.  I asked Jim a few questions about how he managed this trick and here's what I learned:

OM: How did you get it to appear on amazon?

JH: I started with a PDF document that had reached a stable state.  I was often asked for paper copies and I did not want to handle returns, etc., myself.  Using print-on-demand just made sense.

To get the book on the site I worked with Lon Mitchell at Orthogonal Publishing. He knows a great many things, including about things like binding margins, leaving space on the back cover for the ISBN number, and lots of others that I don't want to have to work out for myself by trial and error.

If someone reading this is looking for a partnership of this kind, I recommend it.  Lon suggests that authors make the book available online first and then with some experience they can email him at l3c@orthogonalpublishing.com.

OM: Who handles the orders?  In other words, when an order comes in, who receives it and fulfills the order?

JH: It all happens in cyberspace.  Of course there is a printing device somewhere that physically produces the book and it gets put in an envelope and shipped, but that is all handled by companies that do it very efficiently.  Not by me, which is my main interest.

OM: How does the pricing work?  Do you make a profit?

JH: We worked out a theoretical break-even price and then rounded up to the nearest $5 increment, to end at $20.  There is a small profit, which is nice.

I included more details in an article for TUGboat, the journal of the TeX Users Group.  See https://www.tug.org/TUGboat/tb31-3/tb99heff.pdf.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

WEBINAR: Enabling Successful, Accessible OER in Mathematics with a WeBWorK-MathBook XML Bridge

From Rob Beezer:
Join Alex Jordan, Instructor of Mathematics, Portland Community College, and RobBeezer, Professor, University of Puget Sound, as they discuss their work on developing interactive online math textbooks and the underlying code that supports this very accessible and flexible functionality. This webinar is for potential authors interested in turning their lecture notes into textbooks AND for math instructors looking for existing open textbooks that will save money for students without losing any of the bells and whistles that come with a traditional book.

For examples of Alex and Rob’s textbooks, visit Portland Community College MTH 251 Lab Manual <http://spot.pcc.edu/math/clm/> and A First Course in Linear Algebra <http://linear.ups.edu/>.

Join the session
Call-in only: 571-392-7703, PIN 311 414 325 534
Note: Portland is on Pacific time!

The session starts on Dec 2, 2015 at 2pm Pacific Standard Time.  It's free and you can login starting at 1:30pm Pacific Standard Time.