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Open Source = Opportunity?

"Open Source" is the growing buzz-word in the computer world and even computer education. So what might it look like in the area of mathematics education?

Math Open Reference is a free, web-based resource for both students and teachers. It has three goals:

  • To be a source of mathematics information to students "any time, any place"
  • To "move beyond static, boring text towards engaging interactive content"
  • To provide mathematics teachers with "the tools they need to move away from teaching, and towards learning facilitators"
The one example available currently focuses on secondary-school geometry. It uses "interactive tools and compelling animations" that can be used for reinforcements, explorations, and demonstrations.

As is the nature of open-source software, the content is in continual development and revision, but on the whole the product remains quite constant. Mathematics teachers and students are discovering it gradually, with the suggested web site averaging about a half million page views per month.

The currently available material includes items such as:

  • Introduction to Plane Geometry
  • Points, Lines, Planes, Angles and Parallel Lines
  • Triangles, Quadrilaterals, Polygons
  • Congruence and Similarity
  • Circles and Ellipses
  • Constructions
  • Famous Geometers
  • Coordinate Geometry
  • Transformations
  • Solid Geometry: Cubes and Cylinders
  • Graphical Quadratic/Cubic Function Explorer
A final thought: Some good ideas are included in this open source product, but it seems to be less powerful than a student having access to a product such as Geometers SketchPad. The difference is the teacher's role: Do you want the safety of a textbook environment...or do you want the more open environment of dynamic geometry software where you need to come up with the ideas/problems?