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 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

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

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 <> and A First Course in Linear Algebra <>.

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.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Affordable College Textbook Act

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN) have (re-) introduced the Affordable College Textbook Act which, among other things, introduces a grant program for pilot programs to expand the use of open textbooks.  The bill is, in part, motivated by the high cost of college textbooks.

Nicole Allen of the SPARC alliance, whom some of you may know, helped to draft the language of the bill.  It may sound trite, but contact your senator and encourage the prompt passage of this bill.

Competitive grant programs, like the one proposed in the bill, are yet another way of encouraging academics to engage in open textbook authorship.  The peer review process of competitive grant processes provide the kind of recognition that tenure and promotion committees can understand.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A New Open Source Differential Equations Textbook

Charles Bergeron of Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has launched an open source differential equations textbook project called Differential Equations.  In the spirit of open source, Charles started with Jiri Lebl's "Notes on Diffy Qs" and is adapting it to his own purposes (strengthening the linear algebra portion of Lebl's text).  Like many of us, Charles is a long-time user of open educational resources including: David Guichard's Calculus, its derivative Mooculus, Stitz and Zeager's Precalculus, and Maxima to provide visualizations

Charles says, "What perhaps makes my project different from others is that I mashed up content from several sources. The review section on factoring polynomials over the complex numbers comes from 'Precalculus'. The review of hyperbolic functions comes from 'Community Calculus'. I borrowed a few examples and applications (such as radioactivity and glucose absorption which are interesting to health scientists) from 'Elementary Differential Equations' by William F. Trench. And most of the content in the linear algebra chapter is from 'Linear Algebra' by Jim Hefferon. My outreach to those authors has been generally welcomed."

He has chosen the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license for this work.  In particular, he has added NC (non-commercial) clause primarily because the work is derived from works with the NC clause. If you use his book, let him know.  If you want to contribute.  Reach out to him.

Finally, his college library is planning 'launch party' for the book to coincide with Open-Access Week in October. He seeks creative ideas from the community on what that could be. Please put your ideas in the comments section.

Albert Schueller
Whitman College

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Curriki clearinghouse for open educational resources (OER)

Sorry about letting this blog flounder for a while.  I've been busy working on building a new computer science program here at Whitman.  We've made great progress over the past year and I'm finally to the point where I can resurrect the blog.  I have a couple of postings in the pipeline, but if you have news, please send it along.

Nicole Allen pointed me to this article:

New Collection of Open Educational Resources in Calculus Now Available

It mentions the Curriki site which is a clearinghouse for OER.  The mathematics section is here:

Given this list of sponsors:

they appear to have some pretty solid backers.  Guichard's Calculus is listed on the site:

Beezer's Linear Algebra is not.  If your work is not there, it may be worth investigating how to get it placed on the site.