Using and Adapting Online Materials
Requests from Participants
Specific types of materials, course not specified
- Need: Short demos on certain concepts that could be used in classroom
Response: Start your search at
Demos with Positive Impact (a Math Gateway partner).
- Need: Mathlets and modules for online courses
Response: Some possible sources: "Lite Applets" by Wattenberg, et al.,
the Mathlets and Modules categories in JOMA, Digital Classroom Resources, OSSLETS, Tom Leathrum's Mathlets site, Joe Yanik's personal site, David Strong's applets site, Java Sketchpad (as output from Geometer's Sketchpad)
- Need: 30-40 minute explorations for students to play with in class
- Need: Online projects/homework assignments -- student uses applet/mathlet/module to learn a concept, print the results, and turn it in.
Response: For both of these, we recommend starting with our own
Connected Curriculum Project (also a Math Gateway partner). The in-class exploration is more likely to be fruitful if it leads to a substantial assignment, and that's how we designed the modules in CCP. Our students generally start work on them in class and continue on their own time toward a deadline that may be as much as a week away. Most of them call for doing the work and writing the results in a computer algebra worksheet, which can either be printed for submission or submitted online.
- Need: An accessible and understandable recreational math site to help revive a math club
Response: Start with Cut the Knot!, interactive mathematics miscellany, and puzzles by Alex Bogomolny.
Also see Alex's columns in MAA Online. Also see the collection, Martin Gardner's Mathematics Games (on CD, not on the Web).
- Need: Sources that look at original works for upper level students who have to do projects of various lengths
Response: A nice site of this type is David Joyce's Euclid's Elements. Joyce also has a page on Hilbert's 23 Problems that includes links to some original sources. There are also mathematical and statistical aspects of Gregor Mendel's work on Roger Blumberg's MendelWeb site. Original source sites are not easy to do well -- they usually require the dedication of a single person or small group over an extended period of time. David Bressoud's book, A Radical Approach to Real Analysis, is a good source for finding and using original sources.
- Need: Testing resource for test generation with random numbers that change within a range, leading to "nice" answers
Response: An MAA/CTiME panel at this meeting addressed Electronic Homework Systems -- MyMathLab, WeBWorK, Maple TA, DRILL (also see JOMA article). Most of these can also be used for testing, although the presenters emphasized homework use to free up instructor time to concentrate on more conventional testing and to improve test performance. MyMathLab is a viable option only if you are using a textbook from Pearson Education. Maple TA does not require separate purchase of Maple, but it's easier to use if you have and use Maple. WeBWorK is free (except for setup costs) and has an extensive database of problems for a wide ranges of course, plus options for creating your own. DRILL is also free, but is more of a demonstration system for the issues of online problem assignment and grading -- its problem set is small and focused on the algebra skills needed for calculus.
- Need: Interactive materials possibly to embed in WebCT or other online course development tools
Response: Our experience is with Blackboard rather than WebCT, but the systems have similar capabilities. In general, we found that materials developed in systems Blackboard could recognize (e.g., Excel) could be embedded easily. It did not know what to do with our Maple worksheets, but we could easily upload them and provide links that would open the worksheets on any computer that had Maple installed. Over time, these sytems recognize more and more file types. We don't know if, say, a java applet can be embedded directly into WebCT, but you can probably embed an HTML page that contains an applet. (You may need help from your campus guru to put the applet file in the proper directory.)
- Need: Math news and current events
Response: MAA Online has a link to Math News from Science News. "Math in the News" will be a regular feature of the Math Gateway.
Materials for specific courses
- Need: Materials for lower-level algebra for students using laptops in the classroom with no textbook
Response: Try Math Forum (a Math Gateway Partner -- in the meantime, use its internal search engine), NCTM Illuminations (choose Search at top level).
- Need: Materials for an online course for Liberal Arts Math/General Education Math
Response: Start your search at Demos with Positive Impact (a Math Gateway partner).
- Need: Applets on beginning graph theory for Liberal Arts Math
Response: Start with a search for "graph theory" in MathDL. You will get a manageable list of responses, starting with Planar Graph Applets in DCR. That entry has a link to a collection of Flash applications that support the Wiley text by Ensley and Crawley. A specialized applet of this sort is being developed by the Core Plus Mathematics Project for its secondary integrated curriculum. Stay tuned.
- Need: Applets that involve elementary number theory for math ed majors
Math Forum has a new section (under MathTools) called Internet Mathematics Library, in which you can search by broad category of mathematical topic, by resource type, by educational level, or all of the above. (The search tools are much more powerful than you will find at the MF top level.) For example, you can search for the exact phrase "elementary number theory" (without quotes). Keep in mind that MathTools are contributed and not reviewed except by users (Amazon.com model).
- Need: Source materials for online elementary statistics for nurses
Response: Try CauseWeb, MERLOT, Virtual Labs for Probability and Statistics (all Gateway partners).
- Need: Materials for precalculus
Response: Some starting points: Connected Curriculum Project (click on Precalculus for modules), Math Forum (use its internal search engine), NCTM Illuminations (choose Search at top level)
- Need: Materials to illustrate basic calculus and differential equations concepts
- Need: Sites with multivariable calculus problems available as possible homework for students
Response: Try the Connected Curriculum Project. Also see the next three responses.
- Need: Worked-out problems on various concepts of calculus, with practice problems
- Need: Materials to introduce calculus topics and allow students to review by themselves
Response: There is a resource called Calculus on the Web (COW) based at Temple University. (This will turn up in searches at NSDL or Math Forum, depending on what you search for.) The collection includes Precalculus, Calculus I-II-II, and Linear Algebra, and they're working on Number Theory and Abstract Algebra.
- Need: Java applets that produce images of a volume or surface being integrated
Response: There are some nice animations (in Quicktime, not Java) at the National Curve Bank (a Math Gateway partner). A Google search for "applet integral volume revolution" turns up Volumes of Solids of Revolution in an interactive textbook by Don Kreider and others at Dartmouth. On the home page, there is a link to the applets in the book -- surface area is not included.
- Need: Mathematica files for differential equations
Response: Try Connected Curriculum Project (click on Differential Equations or Engineering Math), MathEverywhere Courseware
- Need: Source materials and mathlets for coding theory and information theory
Response: Try a Google search with "coding theory information applet OR mathlet" (without the quotes).
The first entries (among 164,000) include some interesting ones.
- Need: Articles of interest to undergraduates (for research) in Real Analysis and Cryptography
Response: These are both Math Topics in Math Forum's new section (under MathTools), Internet Mathematics Library.
- Query: How much is available to students free? Would it be worth asking students to join MAA, perhaps as a lab fee?
Response: We are concentrating on materials available to students and instructors at no charge, including some ad-supported sites (and the MAA-membership-supported sites). At this time, very little of the MAA member-only material is addressed to students, so this would not be a good reason to encourage student membership. There are, however, other reasons not directly related to this course.
- Query: How do you take a mathlet and save it for students to use (with the original or another link)? How do you adapt materials for use? What about issues of plagiarism and proper referencing?
Response: In general, you cannot download a Java (or other) applet to your own site and expect it to work. And there is no need to do so, since you can link to it on its original site. However, some authors offer their source code for free download and expect users to adapt or modify and then re-compile. There are similar issues with Flash and other means of producing mathlets.
In our second session, we will be addressing some of the ways materials can be adapted and some of the sites that help with adaptation.
Almost always, there is a link to reach the author and ask permission to acquire and use the code, if that permission is not explicitly given. Some will say yes, some no. A well-constructed site will post a page to tell you what you can and cannot do with the materials on that page -- but you can always ask for an exception. Copyrights must be respected, and all published material is implicitly covered by copyright, even if the author forgets to say so -- unless it is explicitly placed in the public domain or is produced by Government employees as part of their normal work. (For example, everything on the US Military Academy site is in the public domain, as is anything you find on a Federal .gov site.)
Some students think of anything they can reach on the Web as theirs to do with as they please. Every school, every department, and every instructor needs to address explicitly the issues of plagiarism and failure to reference properly.
- Query: When I find sites of interest, how should I deliver to my students? Some ideas:
Response: If students are used to finding course information on a course page, the first idea is best. If they need a little prompting, the second idea -- with carefully selected sites (not a comprehensive tour) -- might add to the first, that is, get them to actually look at the course page and click on the links. The third strategy is probably a waste of time, effort, and trees -- unless your students are very different from ours. Paper handouts of any sort don't last long in the hands of students, other than the exceptionally diligent.
- Post an HTML document with hypertext links
- Make a tour of sites on the computer/display in the classroom
- Print selected pages and distribute copies in class
Return to Main Minicourse page
Revised on 1/19/06