Web Based Mathematics Instruction Project

CONCEPT: Teaching Advanced Mathematics via the World Wide Web

IDEA: The concept is a virtual mathematics class. We want to offer live, interactive advanced algebra (including trigonometry and analytic geometry) and calculus classes to Alabama high schools via the world wide web, "the web".

TARGETED SCHOOLS: This project is aimed at relatively small high schools, probably rural. Many of these schools do not have enough students to justify, or money to fund, any advanced mathematics courses. Others may be able to offer such courses only every other year, which we feel is not good (see next section - Targeted Students). The schools will need to be wired to the Internet (not connected by a phone, which is currently not fast enough.) Lee county high schools are currently wired to Auburn University and these high schools along with any others that are connected should provide enough schools for a pilot project. Governor James and State Superintendent Richardson have publicly stated the desire to wire all schools to the Internet in the near future, so this program could be available to all schools in Alabama in a few years.

TARGETED STUDENTS: This project is designed for junior and senior students at small high schools who intend to go to college and who have shown strong potential in mathematics. By their senior or even junior year they have taken all the mathematics classes that their high school offers. When they get to college, they find that they do not have the background in mathematics that students from larger high schools have. Further, if they have not had a math course in one or two years, they have forgotten much of what they had learned. (Mathematics is very much an "if you don't use it you lose it" subject.) As a result, they immediately need to play catch up and do not achieve their true potential. They are often lost to the scientific and mathematical community.

IMPLEMENTATION: The courses will be taught live and interactively using telephones and computer stations connected to the web. Although audio can be transmitted via the web, it requires a lot of bandwidth (needed for video) so telephones will be used for voice transmission. The stations will use "electronic white boards", these are writing tablets and associated software. The instructor uses the electronic white boards as a virtual blackboard. What he writes will be sent to the students' station and viewed on their monitors. Similarly, whatever the students writes can be seen by the instructor. This two-way communication will be further enhanced by using video cameras that can show live video of students and instructor. (Due to limited web bandwidth, this video is slow, only a few frames per second, but is an inexpensive way to give a feeling of "being there" to the students.) Pictures of homework, projects, etc. would also be captured using these cameras. We also plan to set up a "chat room" on the web, where students and instructors could meet to discuss homework, problems and projects outside the class time.

PRESENT STATUS: Two work stations were placed in each of two Lee County High Schools, Beulah and Loachapoka. The equipment, connections, and software were tested and modified when necessary during the Fall of 1997. The first course was begun with these two high schools in January 1998 with each school contributing three students. After consultation with high school instructors it was decided to begin an advanced mathematics class, a precalculus course. Instructors, Drs. Smith and Stuckwisch, each connected over the internet with one of the high schools. The groups of students were taught separately until the Auburn University Reflector was placed on line in March 1998. The two classes were combined after spring break in March and are now being taught by Smith and Stuckwisch in alternation with each other. (Last updated April 1998)

Auburn Web Based Mathematics Group:

Dr. Michel Smith
Michel Smith's Home Page
E-mail: smith01@mail.auburn.edu Send e-mail to Dr. Smith.

Dr. Steve Stuckwisch
Steve Stuckwisch's Home Page
E-mail: stuckse@mail.auburn.edu Send e-mail to Dr. Stuckwisch.

Dr. Phil Zenor
Phil Zenor's Home Page
E-mail: zenorpl@mail.auburn.edu Send e-mail to Dr. Zenor.

A number of EXAMPLES of the use of the white board are available.

This project is supported by Auburn University College of Science and Mathematics,
And by a generous donation to the College from Mrs. H. Raymond Brannon.