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MATH 140 and MATH 142 Students Use Texas A&M University Instructor Created Open Educational Resource

Date:   2/26/2021


MATH 140 and MATH 142 Students Use Texas A&M University Instructor Created Open Educational Resource Textbooks

By Samantha Shields, M.Ed., Instructional Consultant, Center for Teaching Excellence

February 26, 2021

A small group of dedicated and skilled Texas A&M University Department of Mathematics’ (Math) academic professional track faculty partnered with the Center for Teaching Excellence, the Libraries, and Disability Resources to create two Open Educational Resource (OER) textbooks - MATH 140 Mathematics for Business and Social Sciences and MATH 142 Calculus for Business and Social Sciences. Both OERs serve as the required textbook for these Texas A&M core curriculum math courses. In past semesters, students paid $100 to $140 for a new textbook bundled with the online homework system. By transitioning to OERs, students now have free access to the textbook and pay just $23 for online homework system access, resulting in an annual savings of over $500,000 for the nearly 5,600 students who enroll in these two courses each year.

As shared in the March 5, 2020, Texas A&M TODAY news release, Open Resource Textbooks At Texas A&M Will Save Students Millions, “The cost and accessibility of textbooks has been found to be a major barrier for historically underserved students,” said Tim Scott, Associate Provost for Student Success. “Open Educational Resources essentially remove this barrier and improve academic performance and retention, which are vitally important gauges of student success.”

From Development to Distribution

The idea to create the OERs grew out of Math’s university-level Enhancing the Design of Gateway Experiences (EDGE) grant supporting their departmental work to redesign the two large-enrollment, introductory-level, gateway courses. The EDGE grant’s goal is to provide a more positive student experience, foster real learning, and increase student success rates in gateway courses.

As part of the EDGE grant, a working team was formed and tasked with finding a textbook they felt suitably met their students’ MATH 140 and MATH 142 course needs. When the exhaustive search revealed no viable options, the committee discussed writing their own textbooks, one for each of the introductory math courses. From the start, the team’s goal was to create textbooks that Texas A&M Math instructors found useful for student learning.

Dr. Jennifer Whitfield serves as the EDGE project lead, assembling Kathryn Bollinger and Vanessa Coffelt, Math faculty and lead authors for MATH 140’s OER, and Angie Allen and Patrick Orchard, Math faculty and lead authors for MATH 142’s OER.  Sam Shields, CTE Instructional Consultant, is a subject matter expert in curriculum redesign and faculty development, bringing the project pedagogical support.

As no one on the EDGE project team had textbook writing experience, they reached out to the Libraries for assistance. Dr. Bruce Herbert, Professor and Director of the Office of Scholarly Communications in the Sterling C. Evans Library, brought to the team a wealth of foundational OER knowledge and also helped curate the OER content resources.

The team began with our Aggies front-and-center, using a course design approach to intentionally think about what they wanted learners to know and be able to do at the completion of each course. 

Throughout the yearlong process, the team used a variety of old-school and new-tech resources. They also used Felder and Brent’s Teaching and Learning in Stem to have discussions about what is learning and what it means to be learner-centered teachers. They pulled from James Lang’s Small Teaching, to have conversations about how to set up each OER’s exercise sets.

The team used the online collaborative math writing tool, LaTeX editor Overleaf, to write each OER. Overleaf, similar to Google Drive, allows the team to work on the most updated file, in real time, which was especially helpful during the pandemic. Patrick Orchard explained he and co-lead author, Angie Allen, “found their groove” working closely in a back and forth rhythm - individually then collaboratively - as they wrote each textbook section.

To assist with OER accessibility, the team reached out to Disability Resources to ensure that both OER textbooks will be accessible for all students, a rare occurrence for math textbooks in general.

As leadership looks to the future, Tim Scott shared that the Provost leadership team are committed to expanding OERs at Texas A&M and are working closely with the faculty and Student Government Association to encourage the creation of many more OERs—particularly for large courses with expensive textbooks.

To learn more about the Math OER textbook process, please contact cte@tamu.edu.