Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Do wikis work for any topic? How about math?

Sabah Karam from Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, recently wrote to me asking:

“I have been doing research on how wikis can be used to teach students
how to do mathematical proofs…. I would like to know if you have any thoughts on if you think we this is a realistic effort and, so, how we can achieve this goal.”

Great question! I personally believe that a wiki can succeed on any topic. A wiki is merely a tool for collaborative document authoring by a group. The more important factor that determines the success of a project is the vested interest of the team members (or community) working on it.

So to ensure success in a project like collaborative authoring of mathematical proofs, efforts should be placed into:

  • defining the output (deliverable) and the timelines of the project

  • defining your community (i.e. team members) that will work on the project

  • selecting the right tools to enable the community to produce the desired product in the timeline specified (a wiki is one example of a good document collaboration tool)

  • providing a convincing argument to members of the community to educate them about the value of the tool(s) that were selected for the project

  • providing training on these tool(s) for those members of the community who need it

  • overseeing the completion of the deliverables folloowing the agreed upon timeline

On the subject of wikis that concern themselves with mathematical proofs, there are two that I know of Proofwiki and PlanetMath. Does anyone else know of any? if so, leave a comment below.

Image credit.

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