Role of Open Source in Mathematics

The last session I attended was a panel on open-source materials in mathematics. First up was Aaron Krowne, president of PlanetMath.org. He claims to have 20,000 users, although I was not clear about whether that was active users, or just folks with open accounts. Interestingly, I have never used PlanetMath, an online mathematics encyclopedia. I can’t really see any of my students using PlanetMath either … for example, here is the page on Related Rates. Although the content is put up in Wiki-format, the feel of the site is very Web 1.0 to me … almost no graphics or video (at least I didn’t find a single one in my 10 minutes of browsing). Perhaps this is simply a site that is better suited to users in academia who are either doing mathematical research or who are teaching upper-level math courses and need resources. They do have a great logo though, and I’m curious what they will do now that they have this vast knowledge base. I love their logo: Second on the panel was Michael Gage, from the University of Rochester, who is one of the original developers of WeBWorK. Mike emphasised what many of us said in the panel yesterday: Immediate feedback is a powerful learning tool. He also made an important, and valid, point: “Ask the questions you should, not just the questions you can!” Mike...

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