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Finnish Textbook Hackathon made history: School Mathematics book born in a weekend

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Published on Sep 30, 2012

A group Finnish mathematics students, teachers and researchers have made history during the last weekend of September, producing an open-license High School Mathematics book in a three-day booksprint, for the first time in the world.

"Usually writing a school book is a solitary process requiring at least a year of time, for which the author will receive a small financial compensation. Now, the same was achieved with inspired creative force over one weekend and everyone will get to benefit from the fruit of our labour," says project leader Vesa Linja-aho.

As far as as is known, this was the first one-weekend schoolbook sprint in the world. A similar approach has previously been used to produce manuals for open-source computer programs.

The new mathematics book consists of just over hundred pages and three sections: reading areas, applications, functions and equations. An electronic version of the book, as well as its LaTeX source code, is available for download at https://github.com/linjaaho/oppikirja... . A printed version will be available this year. Before printing, the book will be proofread by the community.

All 30 000 Finnish High school students can benefit from this book. The price for a similar mathematics book is around 15 euros, hence the possible value of the book project can be be up to half a million euros.

"The most important aspect of this project is openness and transparency. All development and evolution require copying and revising. This does not occur in current textbooks, which cannot be altered due to copyright reasons," says project member Tommi Sottinen, professor of business mathematics at the University of Vaasa.

The book will be published under open Creative Commons license, so anyone can copy and edit the book freely.

Over 30 math teachers, researchers and students took part in the project, but representatives of the end users were also present. High School seniors Tiina Salola and Anni Saarelainen tested the book as it was written.
"We like the book very much as it presents complicated things clearly. The book starts from basics and does not make assumptions on the knowledge level of the student," said Salola and Saarelainen.

The project team hope that this will the beginning of a new way of producing learning materials.

"High-quality free material decreases the cost of studying. Currently even in Finland, where education is free, an individual student will pay over a thousand euros for books during their study years. Reduction in these costs will promote educational equality", says Linja-aho.

Additional Information: vesa.linja-aho@metropolia.fi. Tel + 358 40 487 0869.
http://www.facebook.com/oppikirjamaraton
Pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/senjaope...

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