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April, 2019

We hope textbook authors are starting to make big plans for improving their book over the summer break. And we hope everyone is starting to think of ways they can help expand the core functionality of PreTeXt. Those two topics are related, because some textbook enhancements will only be possible through improvements to PreTeXt.

Section 1 On the horizon

This month we step back and take a look at the future of PreTeXt. What enhancements do we need? What enhancements do we really really need? A prioritized list of the planned improvements to PreTeXt has been started, and you are invited to offer feedback. Visit the PreTeXt roadmap for details.

Section 2 Featured feature

This month's featured feature is a feature of the PreTeXt community, not a feature of PreTeXt itself.

The PreTeXt website has a “Gallery” listing all known textbooks written in PreTeXt. Except the list is incomplete and there are several errors. Rob Beezer is setting up a new way to manage the Gallery. You will put the information about your book into a project PreTeXt element, and send a pull request. Once it is merged, your project will appear in the new Gallery, and it will be easy for you to ensure it is correct and up-to-date. Announcement soon on pretext-announce.

Section 3 Have you thought about doing education research?

You were trained as a mathematician, but lately you have been thinking about pedagogical issues. Maybe you wrote a book, or maybe you are using an open source textbook, or maybe you are thinking about the features of PreTeXt textbooks: do those actually help students? How would you know? How can you find out what is helpful for students?

One answer is to do a research study in math education. But how could you do that if you are not trained in math education research? The NSF has a program especially for you, called Building Capacity in STEM Education Research:

To quote from the solicitation, this program “supports activities that enable early and mid-career researchers to acquire the requisite expertise and skills to conduct rigorous fundamental research in STEM education.”

The deadline is June 7, which is achievable if you start soon. If this is a direction you are thinking about, just getting yourself warmed up with a proposal, even if it is unsuccessful, is a great way to set yourself up for success in the future.

If you are thinking about doing this, don't hesitate to post your ideas to pretext-support and ask for feedback or help. Nobody is going to steal your ideas. On the contrary, an open source model for your proposal is probably your best hope for success.

Section 4 Help offered. But do you realize you need it?

Now that Rob Beezer has made improvements to the idx feature in PreTeXt, are you ready for the bad news?

It is likely that the index in your book is poor.

The reason is that “Professional indexers are professionals for a reason.” That quote is from an interesting essay about one person's experience in indexing their book. Indexing is one of those things that many people assume is easy and anyone can do it. It is true that anyone can do it, but not well, unless you have some training.

Help is on the way. We will have an online seminar where we talk about how to make a good index, and then work together to improve the index in one or a couple of books.

If you already have an index in your book and you would like to volunteer it for group editing, please contact David Farmer. Also contact David if you are interested in participating in the online seminar. We will schedule it to accommodate as many people as possible.