Algebra Text by Rob Beezer Gets Gov. Schwarzenegger Nod

April 30, 2010

TACOMA, Wash. – An algebra textbook written by Rob Beezer, professor of mathematics at University of Puget Sound, will be included in a groundbreaking Californian initiative that provides high school students with free digital textbooks.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today released a second list of digital textbooks that have been approved for use in the state’s classrooms, as part of the innovative Free Digital Textbook Initiative. Beezer’s electronic book A First Course in Linear Algebra was approved alongside 15 other texts covering higher-level mathematics, history/social science, and science.

The digital textbook initiative, which was launched in May 2009, is the first of its kind in the country. It provides a resource of textbooks that meet California’s rigorous academic standards and are available free and online for teachers and students. The texts are downloadable and can be projected on a screen, viewed on a computer, printed chapter by chapter, or printed and bound for use in the classroom. They are readily available to all, because using them does not require that every student has a computer.

Digital textbooks are set to become mainstream in Californian colleges and universities, following the passage last fall of Senate Bill 48, which will require all textbooks used in postsecondary institutions be made available in electronic form by January 1, 2020, “to the extent practicable,” either “in whole or in part.”

Beezer was one of the first to design a text from its inception to be an open textbook—published online and available freely to all. He launched his college textbook, A First Course in Linear Algebra, as a free electronic book in 2005. He posted it online at http://linear.ups.edu/index.html and by spring 2010, it had attracted 600,000 page views. To date more than 15 professors across the country and in Australia have indicated they are using the textbook. The book and five peer reviews are included in the Open Textbook project sponsored by Student Public Interest Research Groups, also known as the Student PIRGS advocacy group.

“The material has grown out of several years of lecture notes and hence is well tested with students,” wrote Rama Rao, University of North Florida associate professor in mathematics, in a PIRGS review of the text. “It provides a rigorous coverage of all the important topics of a standard beginning linear algebra course.”

Gov. Schwarzenegger announced reviews of the first 16 mathematics and science texts admitted to the program last August. Ten met at least 90 percent of state standards, and four met 100 percent. Schools are advised to review the textbooks themselves to be sure they meet classroom needs. The textbook reviews in both phases were conducted by expert teachers and content specialists, and coordinated by the California Learning Resource Network. The reviews cover academic content, but not social content.

Rob Beezer is a mathematics professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Puget Sound. He has published widely in journals including Linear Algebra and Its Applications, Expositiones Mathematicae, and The Journal of Combinatorial Theory. His research interests are in graph theory and combinatorics, and often involve an interplay with algebra. Beezer earned his Ph.D. from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Press release from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: http://bit.ly/a5npmI

The California Learning Resource Network, with information about the program: http://bit.ly/cqmBOx

The Student PIRGS Web site: http://www.studentpirgs.org/open-textbooks/catalog/beezer-linear-algebra#reviews

A Press-quality photo of Rob Beezer is available on request.

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