Stephen Wolfram, maker of Mathematica and author of A New Kind of Science, challenges the world again; this time by collaborating to offer free online mathematics texts with interactive simulations to help students see math.
Working in concert with Neeru Khosla’s free textbook initiative, ck12, Wolfram Alpha (WA) has made available free to everyone their first interactive textbook, algebra 1. It took me ten minutes to get up and running with the system that requires the user to download WA’s free computational data player. Like the portable data player for files of type .pdf, the computational data player for files of type .cdf allows the reader to view documents that contain interactive simulations. And because the cdf player is a download, the reading can be done on or off line.
Ck12, the open textbook project supported by the Khosla Foundation, joins pioneers like Salman Khan, and goorulearning in making available to the world, standards-based content for free. Ck12 has free textbooks, available in a variety of formats and licensed to print as well, for nearly every STEM discipline in k-12.
The partnership between ck12 and WA has yielded a readable textbook that is laced with interactive simulations that allow students to see math, particularly graphing, through an interactive interface. Though the major publishing houses have similar interactive simulations available to accompany the digital versions of their texts (such as those recently released with the introduction of Apple’s ibooks 2), the collaboration between ck12 and WA is further evidence that content is headed the direction of free. For cash strapped schools, this movement could not come soon enough.