Thursday, June 16, 2011

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).

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