The focus of this project funded by the National Science Foundation is to understand how students and faculty actually use textbooks in undergraduate mathematics courses and to use that understanding to produce textbooks that are more effective in promoting student learning. The major components of the project involve education research, resource development, dissemination, and evaluation.
The education research concentrates on the use of textbooks in calculus, linear algebra, and abstract algebra, which are courses that are taught in every mathematics department. The experimental course sections use highly interactive online textbooks, while the control sections use more traditional textbooks. The online versions work with a tracking system to provide data about the time and duration of individual student attention—suitably anonymized—to the various parts of the textbook at a detailed level.
The resource development includes substantial work to make PreTeXt (formerly MathBook XML) more capable and comprehensive with all the features needed for textbooks and all scholarly work in any discipline. The project’s editorial work involves improving and enhancing several open source textbooks with copy editing, creation and integration of WebWork problems and the development of a repository for Sage cells for sharing and reuse.
Our dissemination plans include presentations at meetings, workshops for authors and editors, and continuing work by the AIM Editorial Board evaluating open source/access textbooks.
Continual and ongoing evaluation is an integral part of the project and will be overseen by an external evaluator and an advisory board.
The UTMOST project is now in its third round of funding, beginning in September 2018 and continuing until September 2022.