This MaplePrimes guest blog post is from Ian VanderBurgh, the Director of the Center for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) and a Lecturer in the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo. He has been overseeing a project to develop online, interactive mathematics curriculum for high school students, and has been integral in the development of Möbius, Maplesoft's online courseware environment.

Start with one part interest in online education, add one part increased functionality for developing online content, and mix with one part increased focus in the media and elsewhere on mathematics education.  What does this produce?  The perfect time to create high-quality online resources to support learning and teaching in mathematics.

The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC) at the University of Waterloo aims to increase interest, enjoyment, confidence, and ability in mathematics and computer science among learners and educators in Canada and internationally.  For more than fifty years, we have been working with teachers to support the important work that they do in the classroom.  When online courses rose to prominence several years ago, we felt that this gave us the perfect opportunity to create materials to better support the curriculum being taught across Canada and around the world.

The content for what we now call “Phase One” was planned: Advanced Functions (Pre-Calculus) as well as Calculus & Vectors.  These materials would support the education of students in their final year of secondary school, and also provide materials to reinforce concepts for students in STEM programs at the post-secondary level.

After deciding on the content, we needed a platform.  We knew that we needed one with exceptional mathematical capabilities.  Thus, we have been working hand-in-hand with Maplesoft ever since.

With content and platform established, the style began to take shape.  It is based around what one of my colleagues calls “the five Es”: Exposition (onscreen text with synchronized audio), Experimentation (worksheets where users can manipulate mathematical objects), Evaluation (re-generating quiz questions), Exercises (with answers and solutions), and Enrichment (application and extension problems and solutions).  Have a look at the materials and watch a video about the courseware.  After less than two years of “public life”, Phase One has received more than 2 million page views and usage is accelerating.

But why stop there?  Through the development of Phase One, all of the stakeholders realized that, while what we created was great, we needed better and more efficient development tools.  Thus, Möbius was born.  (In the meantime, the CEMC separately launched Phase Two of this ambitious initiative: resources in computer science to support the teaching and learning of programming concepts.)

Now, using the full capabilities of Möbius, we are developing Phase Three, a parallel set of resources to Phase One that will support mathematics at the Grade 7/8 level.  Why Grade 7/8?  We believe that these are very important years in education, that it is vital to future success in STEM disciplines that students flourish in these years, and that we should do whatever we can to support this.

What comes next?  Time will tell.  But, the CEMC will be there supporting mathematics and STEM education.  STEM disciplines will drive almost everything in the twenty-first century, and we have an obligation to do whatever we can to give young people every possible chance for success.

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