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.