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28.02.2020 - 3 min. Read

Math professor engages students with an open educational resource

By Parker Glynn-Adey
Assistant Professor, University of Toronto Mississauga

I teach MAT 232: Calculus of Several Variables at the University of Toronto, Mississauga Campus. This course primarily serves to generalize students’ understanding of single variable calculus. This course has about 450 students per term and has historically been taught using Stewart’s Multivariable Calculus, which is available in print for $197.95 CAD.

For the last three semesters, we have used the OER textbook OpenStax Calculus III. The book is available for free online, or in print for $26.80 CAD. It has been very well received by students and instructors alike. As an instructor for the course, I like that the text has such a wide range of examples from both physics and mathematics. There are abundant graphics and illustrations which support the text. Moreover, there is a good level of detail and plenty of heuristic arguments to support the students while they read the material.

The major reason for adopting the text was that it would be more accessible to students. The text can be processed by screen-readers and other visibility-enhancing technologies. Moreover, it does not impose a financial burden on students. The other reason for adopting the text was that it could be directly integrated into lecture. With OER, I can show students in lecture how we are progressing through the text and its learning objectives. As the course coordinator for MAT 232, I have developed a comprehensive reading guide for the course, which tells students what material is relevant to our course at UTM. The students have appreciated this guide and found it helpful for preparing for assessments. The contents of OpenStax Calculus III align very closely with Stewart’s Multivariable Calculus, which made transitioning from one book to the other seamless. 

At the end of the course, we assign students a reflection task to gauge how they feel about the course. In response to the question, “How do you feel about the OpenStax textbook?” students offered positive sentiments, including:

“I think I prefer the OpenStax textbook to many other courses since firstly, it’s free. Secondly, I never have to carry a heavy textbook with me when I need to study, and thirdly the ability to be able to search for what I need makes learning much faster.”

“It’s pretty great for a free book. There are some practical examples and explanations which are nice when compared to books composed mainly out of blocks of text. It gives learning objectives every chapter which is also great.”

Interested in adopting OER for a course of your own? Visit the eCampusOntario Open Library.