Gathering Thoughts, Part III: Linear Algebra

Originally Posted 12-21-2011

Here it is, part four of a three part series on planning next term.

Linear Algebra

This is the biggest experiment of the next semester. I have become involved in the UTMOST project. In particular, this has three consequences:

  • I will be using the open-source Mathematical software Sage.

  • I will be using an open-source textbook.

  • I will be collaborating a bit with Jason Grout at Drake University, who is a Sage developer, and a PI on the UTMOST grant.

Of course, I want the class to have an IBL feel, too.

I am only attached to the grant as a “test site,” but the whole thing is structured to provide me with support as I learn to incorporate Sage into my class. I am taking advantage of this and using Sage in my dynamics class, too, but linear algebra is the target of the grant.

Also, I am interested in using WebWork to handle the routine exercise type of homework that checks up on student understanding of computational problems.

There is a lot to be done to get this course up and running. The issues outstanding seem to be:

  • Design an introduction to Sage workshop to be delivered the first week.

  • Adapt a Sage Linear Algebra cheat sheet.

  • Get up to speed with WebWork. I will be using this for “routine” assignments.

  • Build a course web page.

  • Get more comfortable with my “open source” text choices. The ones I am going to rely on are by Rob Beezer, Jim Hefferon and Woodruff-Grout. I had initially chosen Beezer’s book because it is more polished. But it has a much more abstract and algebraic feel than the course I would typically run. I think that Woodruff-Grout is closer to my mark, so I might change. But WG needs some love in a few places, and relies on Schaumm’s Outlines for homework problems.

  • Design the first two weeks of class.

Also, the time constraints of a short winter break and a trip to the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Boston give an extra urgency to my work. I will be very busy with this in the week between Christmas and the new year.