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May, 2019

The main point of PreTeXt is to make better books, right?

The articles in this month's newsletter are small in number, but big in terms of helping you improve your textbooks. Learn how to have a better index in your book, and take the next step in helping your textbook become an interactive resource that makes you a better teacher and helps improve student learning.

Section 1 Your book deserves a good index

Join us for an online seminar that will help you understand some of the basics:

Basic introduction to indexing in PreTeXt
Wednesday, June 5
1:30pm Pacific, 4:30pm Eastern

Joining us for the seminar will be professional indexer Pilar Wyman. Pilar has an undergraduate degree in mathematics and has indexed approximately 1000 books, many in technical fields.

To prepare for the call, please read the Advice on Indexing section of the PreTeXt Author's Guide:

We will look at the indexes in two sample books, and if we have time we will implement some of the indexing principles discussed in the seminar. Please take a look at both indexes, and fork and clone both books:

Active Calculus
HTML, PDF, source
Applied Combinatorics
HTML, PDF, source

Section 2 Your book can make you a better teacher

Which is better?

  1. A lecture that pretty much covers the material which is written in the textbook.
  2. An interactive classroom experience that targets the material where your students are struggling.

Maybe that is a trick question, because without the lecture, how would you know which material was difficult for your students?

One possible answer is: the students read the book before class and tell you which material was unclear. Wouldn't that be great? Then you could skip the stuff everyone understood, and present the other stuff in a different way, or maybe go through some different examples. But how do you have them read the book before class and then give you feedback? That is simpler than it sounds, if you have reading questions in the book.

Reading questions are 2-4 questions at the end of a section in the book, designed to test understanding of that material, which (ideally) are easy to answer if they “get it”, and difficult if they do not.

We are ready for more people to test an experimental setup where your students can answer reading questions in the HTML version, and then their answers appear in your HTML version. You can spend a few minutes looking at their answers before class, and adjust class time accordingly.

This is a feature that will have to be paid for in the future, but is available for free now to a limited number of instructors. Contact David Farmer if you are interested. If demand exceeds supply, priority will be given to instructors who are using their own PreTeXt textbook. You can start this process even if your book does not yet have reading questions, as long as those are in place before the start of Fall semester.