I just noticed a LinkedIn post from Macmillan Learning, that they are hiring students for Summer 2019 to test and evaluate some Macmillan products. I did something similar with students in a college algebra course I was teaching and the experience completely changed my career. Here is what happened: On the last day of class, I passed around a sigh-up sheet for anyone in the class that was looking for a summer job. I was writing a college algebra text and I wanted the students to give me their opinions on some of the features in the book and to proofread and edit the book. Six students signed up. The first thing we did was have them take 45 minutes and read one section of the book - approximately six pages. Then we met and discussed what they liked about the section, and where they thought it could be improved. Their comments and insight about what I had written were impressive. But more than that, their conscientiousness for what they were doing surprised me. I knew them fairly well after spending a whole semester with them. But I had never seen them this enthusiastic about anything we had done in class. After working with them for a week, I was curious to see what would happen if I put them in the TV studio to record them working problems. I was surprised by how easily they took direction, and how they improved their presentations with very little coaching. They were much easier to teach in the studio, than they were in the classroom. (I believe this was because they knew their videos would end up public for other students to watch on YouTube.) So we changed direction and spent the rest of the summer doing videos. The result was MathTV.com.
Four of the students in the photo above were from that original group of six students. We used the photo for the banner across to top of the first MathTV home page. A couple of years later we started XYZ Textbooks. The creation of these companies completely changed my career, and it started with those original six students from my college algebra class.
Macmillan Learning is on the right track. If they give their summer students a little room to be creative, and if they listen to what the students are saying, it could be a very exciting summer at Macmillan.
Last year we offered an online Factoring Bootcamp course using the IXL system for our assessments. Their program is excellent. The problems are good, and they gradually increase in difficulty as students progress through the topic. If a student misses a problem, the program backs them up to an easier version of the problem. And, remediation built into the system; each problem is accompanied by three or four suggested problems for those students that feel they are not ready to tackle the given problem. The look and feel of the website is also excellent. You can see the Factoring Bootcamp class itself, and the links to IXL, at www.mathtvcourses.com.
I bought access for up to 25 students in the course, then, as students enrolled, we had them pay $10 for the course. My only problem was that I needed to add them to the roster manually. Then IXL would generate a username for each student and I would have to email them individually because each username was unique. If there was an easier way to get students to pay us for access, and then enroll in the course at the same time, I would recommend IXL to anyone in higher education who is teaching mathematics online. Of course, you can still recommend the website to your students, and even point them to the problems you want them to work on. If they want their scores recorded, so they can see their progress, they would need to pay for an account on IXL.
Overall, a great site for online homework problems. Here is a link to the site: https://www.ixl.com/
I know when I started paying for software. It was in 2003. No one announced it, I noticed its effect on my royalty statement. It was one book that had a net price drop on the royalty statement of around $10, but the actual price of the book students bought had actually increased. When I contacted the royalty department, they knew all about it. They even had a name for it - Value Added. If something was packaged with a book it fell under the category of Value Added. The book became a package that included the book and software, quick start guides, and other items. Each of the additional items were called Value Added, and each of the items was assigned a value. The textbook price became the price of the package, but royalties were only paid on the textbook portion of the package price. In other words, software was added an a Value Added item, but no royalties were paid on it. I told them I never agreed to this and, to their credit, they corrected all the royalty statements. But I wonder how many other Cengage authors are unaware that this is a common practice with Cengage. And I wonder if this is happening across the board with the new Cengage Unlimited pricing model.
I am in a book group that doesn't read books over 250 pages. That's why we call it the Short Attention Span Book Club (SASBC). The group was started in 2012 by my friend Will Jones. We have been meeting every month since then and I have read over 50 books, which is probably 45 more books than i would have read on my own. Will is a former English teacher who loves literature. He started us off with a two-column list of possible books to read. We have expanded the list since then. One column of the list is classics and the other is contemporary titles. (Our current list is below). Some of the books have actually been longer than 250 pages, but not by much.
Mine is. Or, at least it looks like it is. There is an old adage in business, "If a financial report is too long and too complicated, it could be that someone is trying to hide something." I don't know if anyone is hiding anything, but my royalty statements are very long, complicated, and difficult to understand. For example, below is an illustration of one type of entry where they subtracted $3,750 in royalties with no explanation, other than "adjustment." (Just imagine the CEO of a publishing company getting a pay check with a deduction of $3,750 with no explanation.) :
This happens over 10 times on the statement. There are so many entries like this that I don't know where to start asking questions. But I know something is wrong precisely because there is no explanation. They know where this entry comes from, but they are not sharing it with me. Why not?
I have always thought that mathematics was a colorful, exciting discipline to study, and I want this reflected in the materials we publish at XYZ Textbooks. Our new Algebra: A Combined Course 2/e is our best example yet. The cover art, and the opening art in each chapter, is from the artist Tracy Taylor. I have knows Tracy for years and I have always admired her beautiful, colorful paintings. So, I asked her if she would be willing to create some art for this book and, happily, she was very receptive to the idea. She came into the office and we explained the themes we were developing for each chapter of the book. She went back to her studio and created a painting for each chapter, specific to the theme in the chapter introduction. It was an amazing and enjoyable process, and I am extremely happy with the results.
We will be in San Diego at the AMATYC conference this month, so come by the booth and take a look at our new book, and Tracy's art. I know you will like what you see.
We had a family vacation planned with one of our children and three of our grandchildren. I had an idea that we could all read the same book and then discuss it while we were on vacation. So I texted my granddaughter Ava who is in 6th grade.
She responded with this
Eight of us went on a family vacation to Truckee, California: four adults and four children, and almost everyone read the book before we got there. The book was fantastic. I still think about the main character, Melody, and I hope she is doing well. I know it is fiction, but she must be based on someone,
I was surprised by how much fun this was, the level of the discussions, and of the compassion the children possessed. Part of the success of this was that we chose a book they were interested in, rather than one the adults liked. Here is a video with more of the experience:
Is your school dropping some of your developmental math courses? In California, the CSU system will eliminate all developmental math courses starting this Fall. But our students have not changed. So, while everyone tries to find a solution, we have some options for you: Our corequisite textbooks can be added on to any textbook you are using. Each corequisite book contains 20 lessons. You can cover them all at the beginning of your course, or you can cover specific lessons when you need them. Each textbook sells for $24 to the student. For more information go to www.xyztextbooks.com.
Each corequisite textbook is accompanied by a bootcamp course. Students can access the corresponding bootcamp course for free if they have an All-Access Pass to XYZ Textbooks, or for as little as $20, if they do not have an All-Access Pass. We have three courses running now. Three more will be released by the end of the year, including Bootcamp for Statistics. For more information go to www.xyztextbooks.com.
I can't help it. Every time I see loose-leaf, shrink-wrapped textbooks, I think of a student pulling out a handfull of pages from their backpack and watching it all blow away in different directions. Their textbook is blowin in the wind.
The publishers will tell you that student like these loose-leaf books because they only take what they want to class. It's not true; students don't need to take anything to class. In fact, they can photograph their textbook page on their cell phones and take that to class. We do not need to put up with loose-leaf books, we need lower prices.
A recent survey indicates that 92% of all college students prefer a print textbook to a digital one. And we know that this is especially true in college level, developmental mathematics. Those of us who teach developmental math know that some of our students do not have adequate internet access at home. The students in rural areas sometime have no internet access. The same is true for some of our low-income students. The advantage to a print textbook is that you can study anywhere. Probably the best solution right now is to have both a print book and an eBook.
If you ask the major publishers, they will tell you that students prefer buying an eBook over a print book, and that the difference is increasing every year. Of course that's true; the publishers are the ones the priced their print books out of reach of students. They created the problem and now they are telling us the eBook is the solution.
All the posts you see here have been, or will be, posted on my LinkedIn account. If you want to see them as they are released, follow me on LinkedIn: