Blake Regan is a mathematics instructor in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology at Ohio University. His PhD is in mathematics education, and his research interests include assessment, the transition from high school to college mathematics courses and curriculum development. He is currently working on the Student Mathematics Resource and Text (SMaRT) project. The SMaRT project is designed to create a set of open-source Mathematica notebooks to allow students and the general public to interact with and better understand mathematical concepts. The project is also intended to help grow and connect a community of learners and teachers that are interested in creating similar resources across a multitude of disciplines emphasizing accessibility and engagement.
Project: Student Mathematics Resource and Textbook (SMaRT) Project
The Student Mathematics Resource and Textbook project, or SMaRT project, is an Ohio University–founded project that involves the development of web-based learning resources (WBLR) and an aligned web-based curriculum (WBC). The WBLR offer content to students, instructors and the general public free of charge, and functions with the WBC to offer curricula for a nominal fee. Through working partnerships both within and outside of Ohio University, the project team is developing customizable, web-based textbooks available to the general public that will be used in conjunction with a collection of student and instructor resources to create a consistent and accessible sequence of courses ranging from college algebra through calculus.
Mathematics is a keystone to academic and professional success, and universities across the United States are faced with troublesome fail and retention rates in many of its foundational mathematics courses. Students often turn to web-based resources since their textbooks are static in nature and often lack the readability, accessibility and consistency to effectively deliver their content. The aim of this project is to replace the need for these external textbooks with an internally customizable curricula and online learning resources that include written explanations, interactive figures, video examples, linked remediation and an open forum to help students study, learn, connect and engage with mathematical concepts. The goals of the SMaRT project are to:
- Increase student engagement with internal resources that are accessible, consistent, student focused and customizable.
- Increase students’ knowledge and understanding of mathematical concepts as well as their ability to retain and apply material to subsequent courses.
- Increase student retention and lower fail rates related to foundational mathematics courses.
While at the Wolfram Summer School, the project shifted from the development of resources to the development of tools that would help ease students’ transition to a different and possibly foreign resource format, as well as to create a template that can be used to ease the process of developing a consistent and uniform set of resources made by multiple authors. The tools developed to ease students’ transitions include a drop-down menu to immediately go to sections of a resource, a drop-down menu to immediately go to interactive figures included in the resource and shortcut buttons to input answers. For the authoring template, an author can simply select different styles from a drop-down menu, and they will be prompted to enter a title; when applicable, this title will automatically be added as a tag for the cell for the creation of the student drop-down locator tools. Authors will also have a drop-down menu that will paste in code to keep all the different types of figures included consistent and uniform. An additional tool was created to delete all input fields if authors wanted to remove the input code from a notebook (create a “try and construct this” assignment).