Where it all started…
Making Math is a new math teaching platform rooted in the Calculus & Mathematica project created by Jerry Uhl (pictured to the left sporting a tie while coaching a student in class), Bill Davis, and Horacio Porta (UDP).
In 1988, UDP received an NSF grant to develop the Mathematics-based calculus reform project, Calculus&Mathematica. At the same time, Uhl and Porta began teaching these reform calculus classes at the University of Illinois. Right away there was a noticeable change in student enthusiasm for mathematics; students experimented and asked questions that went beyond material consistently. At first, students went to lecture and then spent time in a computer lab to work on assignments. By student suggestion, the classroom was soon flipped and students began their work in the lab and were taken to the classroom at the end of the week for a “literacy session,” where discussion regarding what had been learned in the lab took place. The professors found that once students had experience with the material, they were better able to discuss the topics and were more engaged in learning. These successful classes are still taught at University of Illinois today.
NetMath at the University of Illinois
In 1991, a group of rural high school teachers came to campus to observe the Calculus&Mathematica program. A teacher named Shirley Treadway commented, “If you don’t need to take the students to lecture, then why do they need to be on campus at all?” From this statement, the Distance Education Program (DEP) was created with the use of a Scientific Literacy grant to accommodate rural high school students in Illinois. After the grant funding ended, the successful DEP program became self supporting and was renamed NetMath. In 1996, NetMath began to offer the same courses to adult learners on line in addition to the high school students. NetMath is the longest running and most successful online Mathematics program in the world (see image populated with data from Oct-Dec 2012) It has served college and high school students seeking University of Illinois credit for over 20 years now.
Studies show better results
Many studies of this project have been conducted. Every study has shown a qualitative improvement in the Mathematical thinking skills of students; the data also suggests that students engaged in this kind of learning achieve higher levels of success in future studies in diverse majors. For example, a study of the initial NetMath high school students and how they performed once they arrived at the university, by Travers and Park, showed that the students performed as well or better than their counterparts and were more likely to retain the conceptual material taught to them than students from a traditionally taught calculus course.
Making Math was born
O’Reilly Media bought the content from Uhl, Davis, and Porta with the intention of using modern web-based technologies to build a platform for better delivery and learning outcomes. With the cooperation of Wolfram Research, O’Reilly Media has created Hilbert Mathematica, an online version of Mathematica. Hilbert has been integrated with custom online learning management tools to become Making Math.