Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sage Edu Days - Day Three

View from Dinner Last Night at the Seattle Tennis Club

This is the last day of Sage Education Days 3, and Seattle weather is back to normal---overcast with light rain. Here is a link to a video of yesterday's status reports

Linear Algebra

Rob Beezer (University of Puget Sound) told everyone about what he did on his sabbatical last year, including his stay at African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) in Cape Town. Lots of Sage at AIMS. Great photos of the safari! Rob talked about his open-source book, A First Course in Linear Algebra. Up to date development information can be found at You can find the Sage worksheet version of AATA (my book) in the same place.

On a side note, I have a 400 page manuscript for an ordinary differential equations text. The text emphasizes systems and would make a good open-source textbook/Sage project. If someone is interested in working with me on this, please let me know.

Numerical Analysis

Jason Grout (Drake University) talked about teaching numerical analysis with Sage. Jason has lots of good ideas about how to use Sage in any course. He suggested setting up a specific account for students to turn in Sage assignments. Students can then share their assignments with the account. To grade an assignment, you can just log onto the account, execute all of the Sage cells, and make any needed comments in a different colored font.

Interact Design

Open mic session with MC Jason Grout (Drake University). Lots of interesting examples. See for examples and to start learning about how the interact works in Sage. Also go to and browse the published worksheets (no login required).

Writing interacts might make good student projects. John Perry said that he has a little experience using interacts this way. It would be easier to encourage some colleagues (who might not willing to write their own) to use interacts in the classroom if there is a place where we can direct them.

UTMOST Test Sites Meeting

This was an informal Q and A session. A copy of the original proposal can be found at Jason Grout is taking notes and will post to the UTMOST grant wiki.

Status Reports and Wrap-Up

Status reports will be on YouTube (accessible from the conference wiki). Personally, I have gotten tex2sws (textbook conversion) to work, have some new ideas on how to make Sage work in the classroom, met with the UTMOST group, and have gotten python to work on my iPhone. I am realizing that I knew a lot of UNIX and LINUX at one point and am going to have to relearn it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sage Edu Days - Day Two

Day Two

My talk was the first one of the morning. I spoke on teaching abstract algebra this spring with Sage. Sage worksheets and slides are on the wiki

Karl-Dieter Crisman (Gordon College) spoke on teaching number theory with Sage. Karl-Dieter uses a little more programming in his number theory course than I do in my abstract algebra course. Programming tends to scare my students, so I decided not to tell them that they were programming or using Python (on Rob Beezer's advice). Ideally, I would like them to come to my office and beg me to be able to use a "for loop." Karl-Dieter's published worksheets are available at

Watching Vector Fields in 3-D

Linear Algebra Lab Manual

Ryan Grout (Brigham Young University and Jason Grout's younger brother) spoke about the decision to use Python (and Sage) instead of MatLab as part of a new, NSF funded curriculum at BYU on computational and applied mathematics. The choice to use Python (and Sage) over MatLab was made because of the need of a more general programming language than MatLab provides. The lab manuals are student written. The decision to make the lab manuals open source was made within the last month or so. Labs are not available online yet, but this could start to happen today.


Dan Drake (KAIST, Korea) gave the technical talk of the morning, getting and executing Sage commands in your LaTeX documents. Really neat examples! Dan showed how to offload some the the LaTeX work into Sage.

Important! Make sure that you use the correct style file. It has to match the version of Sage that you are using.

Status Reports

Technical reports and Sage Edu Days reports were combined this afternoon. Video reports will be available on the wiki Personally, I got sagetex and the textbook conversion process working, gave a talk, and attended the UTMOST PI meeting.

Michael Gage is working embedding JMOL into WeBWork and getting single cell Sage applets into WeBWork. Getting Sage into WeBWork is still a long ways away. Jason Aubrey is working on embedding WebWork problems into the Sage notebook. Progress is being made.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sage Edu Days - Day One Part 2

Here are some videos of the talks this morning.

Status Reports (Highlights)

Morning of Day One at Sage Edu Days 3

Sage Edu Days

I am at Sage Education Days at the University of Washington in Seattle. The third Sage Education Days is being held in conjunction with Sage Days 31, at the University of Washington in Seattle, June 16-18, 2011. The wiki for Edu Days 3 can be found at You can find the slides for all of the presentations as well as the Sage worksheets for the presentations.

What's Sage?

Sage is a free open-source mathematics software system. You might think of Sage as an open-source Mathematica but actually it is a bit more. Sage uses Python to combine many existing open-source mathematics software packages such as GAP, Maxima, and R. You can wither download Sage and run it on your notebook or desktop computer or you can try Sage by logging into a Sage server. You can even run Sage on an iPhone. Everything you need to know can be found at

Project UTMOST

The goal of Project UTMOST is to demonstrate how Sage can be coupled with existing free open textbooks as a tool for faculty and institutions to more easily bring the power of mathematics software to students. Authors of open source software and open textbooks provide licenses that permit free copying and modifications of their work, allowing others to modify or extend them to suit their needs or make improvements. Primarily, UTMOST is converting existing open textbooks into web-based electronic texts that integrate traditional mathematical exposition with Sage code and hands-on demonstrations. Ten different undergraduate institutions are or will help test and refine these materials using a comprehensive, professional evaluation procedure. The main goal driving UTMOST is to create technical and pedagogical tools and methods that greatly simplify the deployment and use of powerful software to increase learning and experimentation in undergraduate mathematics.

Teaching Calculus with Sage

John Perry (University of Southern Mississippi) presented Interactive Calculus + "SAGElets". You can go to for lots of good example labs and worksheets for Calculus I.

Multivariable Calculus

John Travis (Mississippi College) presented Sage in multivariate calculus. John is relatively new to Sage. He took the Sage PREP workshop last summer. John's presentation and worksheets are on the wiki. Much of the presentation was devoted to how one could use Sage in the classroom to help students with visualization. Cool 3-D graphics! This works extremely well with three-dimensional vector fields. you just need 3-D glasses.

It's harder to come up with worthwhile student projects. Here are some ideas for student projects that I have used in the past (Thanks to Wilfried Schmid at Harvard).

  • Give students the code to plot a cycloid and then ask them to write the code to plot an epicycloid.

  • Ask students to plot a monkey saddle and then a generalized monkey saddle.

What is needed is a place to collect problem and projects and a reviewing process to vet these?

Textbook Conversion

Rob Beezer (University of Puget Sound) presented Textbook conversions. The goal is to convert book length projects into Sage worksheets. The main tool for converting LaTeX to various forms is tex4ht. A bit of a technical talk, but nicely done and I learned some new things. Will these tools change the way that author textbooks or the way that students read their texts? Also needed is an author's guide.

General Comments and Ideas

  • Have a Sage worksheet for each class that you are teaching.

  • Project UTMOST needs a website.

  • Could we use what Rob has done to convert the SFA calculus labs?

The afternoons are devoted to working individually or in small groups on projects followed by status reports at the end of the day (a separate blog entry).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Legacy Conference - Day 3

What has Ally Learned? Outcomes for Students and Teachers of IBL Mathematics Courses

Sandra Laursen (Joint work with Marja-Liisa Hassi, Marina Kogan, and Anne-Barrie Hunter, Ethnography & Evaluation Research, and Tim Weston, ATLAS Assessment and Research Center, University of Colorado Boulder)

Abstract: We have recently completed data analysis for a large, multi-method study of inquiry-based learning in college mathematics as implemented across four university IBL Mathematics Centers. From classroom observations and interviews, we identify key features of these courses that were generally shared despite variations in style and implementation. We share some of the rich evidence from student surveys, tests, interviews, and academic records about how students benefited from IBL experiences and who appeared to benefit in particular. Finally, we highlight the learning processes that were important in these IBL classrooms, particularly the “twin pillars” of deep engagement in mathematics and collaboration with others.

Comments: The executive summary and the full report can be found at

General Remarks about this year's Legacy Conference

This year's conference is perhaps the best one that I have attended. Here a few things that have made an impact on me.

  • I have had an interest in Emerging Scholars Programs for quite some time. Thanks to Eric Tsu's talk, I have a be3tter idea of how we might start one at SFA.

  • Math circles for middle school teachers. It's time to start one.

  • I think that I have arrived at better definition of inquiry-based learning of at least one that works for me.

  • This year's conference seemed to be more focused on IBL in general as opposed to Moore Method.

Final Note

Waiting in the airport for my flight back to Texas. Next blog entry will be from Edu Days 3 in Seattle (in about two weeks).

Friday, June 3, 2011

Legacy Conference - Day 2

I spent the first hour of the morning with my co-author, Matt Leingang, trying to get a math ed paper ready for resubmission to the Journal of STEM Education, only to find out that the paper needs to be submitted in APA style. We had written the paper in LaTeX. What I had hoped to be a 15 minute job, will probably turn into a half day chore.

Judy Holdener, Kenyon College - To understand is to invent: empowering students with technology

Abstract: As teachers of mathematics, we strive to get our students to move beyond the surface knowledge of our discipline and to delve deeply into the creative process of mathematics. Our students are not vessels to be filled with facts, but rather active problem-solvers who learn by exploring, manipulating, experimenting, questioning, and searching out answers for themselves. Activity is essential. In this talk I will present concrete ways in which I have used technology as a vehicle for such activity. In doing so, I will reveal my own views relating to the creative process of mathematics – views that place a large weight on the importance of mental imagery, playful experimentation, and lateral thinking in mathematics.

Comments: Great talk. Lot's of good examples integrating Gap and IBL. I wonder if she has thought of using Sage.

Five Minute Talks

Decided to take a pass on the five minute talks this year.

Eric Hsu, San Francisco State University - Making Practice Visible: The Emerging Scholars Program and IBL

Abstract: The Emerging Scholars Program is an intensive non-remedial mathematics program which focuses particular attention on increasing success of underrepresented minorities. This model was created 35 years ago, and has been adopted by over a hundred colleges around the U.S. At the heart of the model is a multicultural workshop where students solve problems in groups and individually. We discuss how the role of IBL evolved in a natural way in response to ethnographic research into differences in student academic culture as well as the practical needs of the program.

Comments and Questions: Great talk. The slides are supposed to be available online (eventually).

  • Emerging Scholars Programs have been tremendously successful. If you don't have one at your institution (SFA doesn't), you should definitely consider starting one.

  • What is the bottleneck course for under-represented minorities wanting to study science and mathematics at SFA? Since Emerging Scholars programs focus on non-remedial courses, which rules out MTH 098 and 099. If SFA were to start an Emerging Scholars Program, possible candidate courses might be College Algebra, Precalculus, and Calculus I.

  • Shell Centre publication, The Language of Functions and Graphs, would be a great source of problems ( This is where I first saw the flag raising problem.

Jacqueline Jensen, Slippery Rock Univ. and Ron Taylor, Berry College - Assessment in an IBL Classroom

How one person's abilities compare in quantity with those of another is none of the teacher's business. It is irrelevant to his work. What is required is that every individual shall have opportunities to employ his own powers in activities that have meaning. Mind, individual method, originality (these are convertible terms) signify the quality of purposive or directed action. - John Dewey from Democracy and Education
In the context of Dewey's quote, it seems that the use of inquiry can facilitate giving each student the opportunity to “employ his own powers in activities that have meaning" toward the goal of learning. In this presentation we propose some answers to the following questions:

  1. Does assessment in an IBL classroom differ from assessment in a lecture style classroom? -

  2. If there is a difference, does it necessarily imply the need for different types of assessment techniques? -or-

  3. Can traditional assessment techniques be used as-is in an IBL classroom? -or-

  4. Can traditional assessment techniques be modified to better serve students in an IBL classroom?

  5. What new assessment techniques can be devised to serve students in an IBL classroom so that their learning in the context of their own meaningful activities is revealed?

Comments: Really didn't have anything.

Angie Hodge, NDSU and Judith Covington, LSU-Shreveport. Math Teachers' Circles: Why, What, When and Where?

Abstract: Math Teachers’ Circles are a form of professional development that uses inquiry-based learning techniques to help practicing teachers improve their mathematical knowledge through content rich problem solving. Collaborations are made between university faculty, middle school teachers, and K-12 administrators to create a learning community. These sessions are held to give the middle school teachers a chance to learn mathematics and solve problems for their own enjoyment. Emerging research on Math Teachers’ Circles indicates that they are successful in increasing teachers’ mathematical knowledge for teaching, and that participating teachers report increases in their confidence, interest in mathematics, and use of problem solving in their classrooms. In this session, we will briefly discuss how we began our Math Teacher’s Circles. We will focus on the connection between inquiry-based learning and Math Teachers’ Circles. Specific examples will be provided, including an interactive problem solving session, to help attendees get a feel for the power of this inquiry-based professional development experience.


  • The Math Teachers's Circle website at AIM ( is a useful source of information.

  • This is something that we could do at SFA either in connection with the Leadership and LIMIT groups or by writing another grant. We have local expertise available (Judith Covington, LSU-Shreveport) and could recruit teachers locally and at regional meetings.

Breakout Session

  • Maryland Suites – General Contributed Paper Session

  • Virginia A – Assessment and IBL

  • Virginia B – Technology and IBL

  • Virginia C – Math Circles and IBL

  • Nathan Hale – Emerging Scholars Programs and IBL

I went to Matthew Leingang's talk on using social media.

Chris Good, Chris Sangwin and Matthew Badger, University of Birmingham, UK. The Moore Method in the UK: IBL at Birmingham

Abstract: In 2004, with generous support from the EAF, Dr Chris Good set up a Moore Method course for the first time at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom (UK). The course is an optional module, of 27 contact hours over one semester for mathematics major students in their first year of university. Since 2004 it has been taught by three different members of staff with a variety of problem sets. In this talk we will set the scene for university teaching in the United Kingdom, and specifically at the University of Birmingham. We will describe our goals for the course, and our experiences of teaching this module. Matthew Badger has undertaken an evaluation of the outcomes of this course, including a quantitative analysis of students' progress and a qualitative study of their attitudes and experiences of the course. We will report our results. Lastly we will comment on the use of Moore Method courses, and problem solving in university mathematics, at other United Kingdom Universities.
Comments: Good overview of how the English university system works as far as students enrolled in a bachelor's degree in mathematics program. Teaching IBL courses can be a problem since many courses have a 200+ enrollment.

Panel Discussion – What Resources are Available to Me?

AIBL and Visiting Speakers’ Bureau – Stan Yoshinobu and Mark JIBLM and the Geometry Project – David Clark

The URL for The Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning is ( Note:The small grant program has been cancelled for this summer cycle due to funding issues. Applications are being accepted for next summer.

Legacy Conference - Part 2 of Day 1

After a break, we listened to a new users panel followed by breakout contributed paper sessions. Our dinner speaker was Mike Starbird, University of Texas at Austin, who is always entertaining.

Transforming Lives: Teaching Thinking and Creativity

Beyond teaching mathematical skills, IBL experiences frequently involve interesting consequences on students’ attitudes concerning self-reliance, independent thinking, persistence, and willingness to make mistakes. IBL courses can transform lives.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

14th Annual Legacy of R. L. Moore Conference - Day 1

Opening Remarks

The 14th Annual Legacy of R. L. Moore Conference is in Washington DC this year (June 2-4, 2011). David Bressoud and Paul Zorn, both MAA presidents, opened the conference. Bressoud outlined the results of the MAA survey of mainstream Calculus I classes across the nation. Here is where our students are:

Even more interesting is where our calculus instructors are: David's columns are short and are well worth reading.

Sandra Laursen spoke about the recently completed data analysis for a large, multi-method study of inquiry-based learning in college mathematics as implemented across four university IBL Mathematics Centers. She will talk more in depth about the results of the study on Saturday, but here are a few brief comments.

  • Women report greater learning gains in IBL courses as opposed to traditional courses.

  • IBL students report a deeper interest in the subject.

  • Lower GPA students report greater gains than higher GPA students.

  • For students enrolled in content courses for pre-service elementary school teachers, lower achievers make greater gains on the LMT (

  • There was no damage to higher GPA students.

Ted Mahavier (Lamar University) presented The Moore Method: Transformative Experiences.
Stan Yoshinobu (Cal Poly San Luis Obispo) presented Saving Ally

Stan gave evidence that the current system is not meeting the needs of our students or our society. Our current system has its roots in the industrial revolution, where the educational system was developed to train leaders. Ally is an average 5th-grade student in a high performing school. The demographics put her in the 75th percentile of all California students. Ally is presented with pairs of fractions and asked to compare them. Ally displays some very confusing and faulty reasoning in making her choices. Stan pointed out that Ally will be tracked into the lower level classes in middle school. He points out that we have probably lost Ally forever.

Stan asks his pre-service teachers to write their mathematical autobiography at the beginning of their first content course. The comments were not unexpected, but never the less informative. Most had had a negative experience and this was usually around the end of elementary school (fractions).

Stan's slides are worth seeing. He has promised to put them online. I will post the link as soon as I receive it.

Nathaniel Miller (University of Northern Colorado) presented Multiply-Modified Methods: The Many Faces of the Inquiry-Based Learning in my Classes.

After a break, we listened to a new users panel followed by breakout contributed paper sessions.

Tonight's dinner speaker will be - Mike Starbird (University of Texas at Austin), who is always entertaining. Starbird will speak on Transforming Lives: Teaching Thinking and Creativity

Abstract: Beyond teaching mathematical skills, IBL experiences frequently involve interesting consequences on students’ attitudes concerning self-reliance, independent thinking, persistence, and willingness to make mistakes. IBL courses can transform lives.

Defining IBL

Sandra Laursen pointed out two features of IBL courses.

  • A deep engagement with the mathematics.

  • Collaboration.

I have been working on my own definition of IBL for the last several years, and here it is.
  • Asking students to be responsible for their own learning. Giving students classroom opportunities to be responsible for their own learning and to share and/or collaborate their learning with their peers.

The definition may change by the end of the week.

Conference Details

Details of the 14th Annual Legacy of R.L. Moore Conference can be found at

Personal Notes

This is the first time that I have ever been to Washington DC during the summer (a.k.a. tourist season). First observation: the true tourists really standout. Second observation: it seems to be more hot and humid here than in east Texas.