It’s about teaching, thinking about what you need to teach … you need to teach thought processes
Dr Claire Blackman is a lecturer in mathematics, whose passion lies in mathematics education in tertiary institutions. Her most recent work in creating a mathematics open textbook, Introduction to Abstract Algebra, using open source tools is oriented around not only creating content best suited for the practice and teaching of mathematics within a local context, but also the training of a mathematical mind. In February 2019, Claire was awarded a grant from the DOT4D project, which she is using to develop her textbook and address these ambitions in the teaching and practice of mathematics at an undergraduate level.
Claire is currently teaching the second-year Mathematics and Applied Mathematics (MAM2000W) course and is based within the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics in the Faculty of Science at the University of Cape Town.
What is the problem she is trying to address using open textbooks?
Claire plans to address a number of aspects through the development of her open textbook. The first is the financial burden students face in having to buy the recommended textbook, which costs around R700, and the barrier this presents for effective participation in the classroom. In addition to this, the current textbook reflects mathematics from a European and American perspective, and is therefore not tailored to her students’ context.
Claire is also interested in addressing issues related to her student’s lack of background knowledge and their struggle to write mathematics, as well as language barriers. Within this context, she aims to make maths less abstract and address the challenges her students face in writing mathematical proofs, which she sees as indicative of the fact that they are struggling to think in a particular way. She has geared her work towards teaching her students thought processes and empowering them to be able to think critically.
What is her authorship approach?
Claire’s open textbook authorship approach incorporates students in the creation of content by involving third-year students in the development of questions, exercises and solutions. In addition to this, she draws strongly on the feedback students in her second-year class provide as they make use of parts of the textbook which are under development. The content, including graphics and assessment components, is being developed from scratch using the PreTeXt XML authoring tool. Colleagues in the maths department provide input on content development processes and play a role in quality assurance of the content created.