The University of Waterloo (UW) is an institution known worldwide for its excellence and innovation in research and teaching. The Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing (CEMC), based at the University of Waterloo, is Canada's most recognized mathematics outreach organization, its mission being to provide curricular and enrichment support for elementary and secondary school teachers and students through workshops, online resources, contests, and more.
The CEMC and the University's Centre for Extended Learning are now partnering with Maplesoft to provide effective, engaging, online education for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses. They combined rich course material developed by the University of Waterloo with Möbius, Maplesoft's platform for developing, managing, and displaying dynamic STEM content. The result is an online environment where students can learn by doing - exploring important concepts using engaging, interactive applications, visualizing problems and solutions, and testing their understanding by answering questions that are graded instantly.
The first initiative from the collaboration between Maplesoft and UW is the free, online Secondary School Courseware project, designed to support high school teachers and students in their Precalculus and Calculus courses. Interactive investigations and on-screen text with synchronized audio teach concepts that are taught in Advanced Functions (Precalculus) and Calculus and Vectors courses. Students can interact with dynamic applications to explore concepts further and deepen their understanding of the material, while self-assessment questions, exercises, and solutions are available to consolidate learning and help students evaluate their progress. Students can practice concepts until they feel confident, and enrichment and extension questions are available to affirm and extend their learning.
The courseware also addresses the issue of varying levels of mathematics in students coming from different secondary schools to the University. "When students come to us from secondary schools all across Canada, and other parts of the world, there is naturally a difference in the level of knowledge and skills," explained Ian VanderBurgh, Director of the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing at the University of Waterloo. "We wanted to offer support to teachers and students to help students transition to university smoothly and more confidently."
While it is a great resource for students, teachers can also use the courseware to supplement their lessons. It may be used to introduce an upcoming topic, reinforce concepts learned in class, or to provide enrichment material for students who are already confident with the material.
"Powering the courseware with Möbius means we can ask questions online that go so much farther in assessing the concept, compared to traditional methods," said VanderBurgh. "With Möbius, we are also able to offer dynamic resources teachers can use that provide students the opportunity to explore concepts independently or with a teacher, practice using diverse question types, and receive instant feedback so they can evaluate learning immediately."
Only one semester after its launch, the online math courseware site is already being used by students and teachers in almost 90 countries - everywhere from Russia and China to the U.S. and Germany. "We are thrilled to see the rapid spread of our courseware, and are glad that teachers and students are making use of it," said VanderBurgh.
In Milton, Ontario, the free courseware is helping to replace textbooks altogether. "The material is very organized and very professional; the amount of effort put in is amazing," said Sheri Hill, mathematics and computer science teacher at Craig Kielburger Secondary School, Milton. Making use of the online courseware and other digital resources is part of a push the school is making toward 21st century learning.
To access and explore the Secondary School Courseware site, visit http://courseware.cemc.uwaterloo.ca/.