Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications
Welcome to JOMA
Welcome, dear reader. In this brief essay, I will attempt to answer the following questions:
Published January, 2001
When the Mathematical Association of America was founded in 1915, its first journal, the American Mathematical Monthly, was already publishing Volume 22. In Volume 1, now more than a century ago, editors B. F. Finkel and J. M. Colaw wrote this:
Reading this at the start of the 21st century, one is tempted to mutter Plus ça change ... . But in fact a lot has changed in over 100 years of MAA journal publication. Specifically:
With widespread access to computers, the Internet, powerful computer algebra systems, and other modern technologies, the very concept of problem-solving has become much broader and more accessible, in ways that could not have been imagined 100 years ago. Nevertheless, Finkel and Colaw would be right at home with much of what they might see in a typical mathematics classroom today. JOMA's mission, in part, is to bridge that gap by making modern tools (especially soft ones -- as in software), curricula, and active learning environments more accessible to students and teachers everywhere.
Specifically, JOMA will take advantage of the World Wide Web to publish materials containing dynamic, full-color graphics, internal and external hyperlinks to related resources, Java applets, presentations based on MathML, SVG, and other XML markups, audio and video clips, and other web-based features. Indeed, many of these features are already apparent in this first issue. As a publication of MAA, we will concentrate on content for college level mathematical sciences, which we see as as overlapping to some extent with the upper-secondary and lower-graduate levels. Almost all undergraduate mathematics instruction is for students in other disciplines (justification), so JOMA will publish contributions from or about other disciplines as long as they have mathematical content that is accessible to undergraduates.
In addition to being the great-grandchild of the Monthly, JOMA is also the spiritual successor to MAA's first online journal, Communications in Visual Mathematics (CVM), which unfortunately never got beyond its prototype issue. The editors of CVM, Thomas Banchoff and Davide Cervone, wrote in their counterpart to this article:
All of these presentation styles are illustrated in the prototype CVM, and all will be warmly embraced in JOMA. CVM's content, mission, and audience were quite different from JOMA's, but the quality of materials in its first issue and the loftiness of its goals set standards we intend to live up to.
As they say in show biz, "timing is everything." CVM may have been before its time, at least in the sense of readiness of the intended audience of readers and writers. A lot has changed in the past two years, and we have many indications that the time is right for JOMA. Here is a partial list of our strengths:
I hasten to add that, while our resource base is strong, nothing about this operation is a closed shop, and nothing is (or ever will be) carved in stone. In particular, new volunteers and new contributors are always welcome. Critics, cheerleaders, and other commentators are also welcome -- please use our Letters to the Editor link. By the time of our second issue, we expect to have threaded discussions attached to every JOMA item that anyone wants to discuss.
This remark is addressed particularly to potential authors: Nowadays, anyone can "publish" online anything they want to, and most college campuses have help available for doing just that. The advantage of publishing in JOMA is that everything is peer-reviewed and carefully edited. We will maintain a standard of quality that colleagues and administrators will appreciate and reward.
Mission: MAA and JOMA
The mission of MAA is to advance the mathematical sciences, especially at the collegiate level. This mission is articulated in four major program goals:
JOMA addresses the first two goals directly, word for word. Through publication of active learning materials that students can use online or offline, relevant student interests will also be addressed. And, as a component of MathDL, JOMA will play a role in influencing public perceptions of mathematics, thereby having an indirect influence on policy as well.
JOMA's Projected Content
We will publish, among other things,
This list is almost certainly not complete. As scholarship related to our mission evolves, we will undoubtedly add categories we haven't thought about yet. In addition to our Articles and Mathlets sections, this issue has a Developer's Page. Future issues will have a Materials section (for modules and other materials that don't fit the Mathlets definition), and, as the need arises, we will probably have a Teacher's Page and a Student's Page as well.
Some issues of JOMA will have a "focus" (as this one is focused on calculus mathlets) -- for example, we will have issues focused on particular collections of materials, with outstanding examples of the materials appearing in JOMA and the rest in MathDL. The same issues might have articles from users about integrating the materials into courses, from researchers about how students learn from the materials, and from developers about selected mathlets. Other issues may focus on particular advances in technology, such as implementation of MathML in a wide range of instructional systems and browsers.
Here are some topics and categories of articles we expect to have in future issues, in addition to those already mentioned:
Most of these ideas are in some stage of development by various authors with varying levels of commitment, but some are ideas looking for authors, and perhaps some will trigger other ideas in the minds of potential authors.
The Special Mathlets Issue
It takes time to develop high-quality, high-tech materials -- and this project has been conceived, funded, and brought to (first) fruition in a relatively short time, approximately a year. We would not have attempted publication of our first issue so quickly if it had not been for a separate and earlier NSF grant to Math Forum for the "JOMA Applet Project." Mathlets Editor Tom Roby describes this project in more detail elsewhere in this issue. In brief, its purpose was to identify and review all the calculus applets in the world -- at least those that could be found by searching the Web -- so that we could publish the very best in this issue. We have an outstanding selection of "mathlets" -- self-contained, dynamic, single-purpose learning tools, not all of which are Java applets -- that illustrate one significant capability of Web-based instructional materials.
We also invited some of the mathlet authors to submit papers about the design, construction, and use of their collections. One of our authors, Xiao Gang, has written a paper about the WIMS site at the University of Nice (France), which includes freely available capabilities that go far beyond the particular mathlet that brought this work to our attention. In a similar vein, Franz Embacher and Petra Oberhuemer of the University of Vienna (Austria) have provided a short note describing the materials available at their maths online site. In a rather different direction, Tom Leathrum's "article" is a visit to his site to see how he combines the use of several mathlets into a student exploration.
For technical reasons related to the construction of MathDL, none of the mathlets in this issue are physically located on a MathDL or Math Forum server. Instead, our pages have links to their sites of origin. As MathDL comes on line this Spring, we will host copies of almost all materials on our own site to assure their permanence and stability. There will still be links to authors' sites so that updates and enhancements will be accessible to users. And there will be some materials (e.g., the ones in this issue from WIMS and from Vanderbilt) that depend on server-side facilities, which we may not be able to duplicate. But by and large, MathDL will be a "real" library with its own collections, and the actual contents of JOMA will be "shelved" in the library for easy and reliable access.
Again, welcome! If you have read this far, you're probably interested in what we're doing. Don't be a "lurker" -- be an active participant. Send a Letter to the Editor on any aspect of this issue. Letters will be used to seed an online forum for each item that readers choose to discuss. Think of ways to use the materials in your own teaching and learning activities -- and then do it! Submit an expository or research article, a mathlet, a review, anything that seems to fit. Share with your colleagues and advance the profession!