Finding the right group, however, can be a challenge. Given a captive audience, some will abuse the privilege. You may learn of a group focused on the right topic only to find that the conversation is dominated by unproductive harangues, or wanders too far afield. Sometimes you join but there's no one there, or ideas come flying so fast that it's hard to achieve anything close to a conversation. Perhaps you are limited to email access but the discussion you want is taking place only on the Web or within a newsgroup. (There are usually ways to get around such limitations, but it can take extra energy to conquer the obstacles.)
Since even in the best of situations the medium is not yet mature, many
people are working together to define norms and productive formats that
will help us realize its full potential. Even now, depending on their
interests and purpose math educators have a number of solid
Hosted by David Epstein at the University of Warwick, this mailing list is inhabited by high-level researchers and teachers involved in post-calculus mathematics. While the conversation does not always remain at the post-calculus level (few such unmoderated lists can hold tightly to their stated mission), the community is a serious one and discussions delve reasonably deeply into useful pedagogical and cognitive issues. Conversations can range over such diverse topics as teacher evaluation, developing rigor, using definitions effectively, and cultivating the logic of implication. Many participants resist the flight into abstraction and offer descriptions of actual practice, situating their comments in the context of specific mathematical investigations.
A moderately active list, mathedu usually generates 6-9 messages per day on one or two topics. Participants join the list by sending an email message to email@example.com with the command "subscribe mathedu <your email address>" in the body of the message. (When you type a subscribe command, do not include the quotes or the angle brackets. Note also that the automated subscription process ignores the Subject line.)There are several other good lists that address math education, although their focus is not exclusively undergraduate level mathematics.
This list focused on pedagogy and policy is hosted by The Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A representative sample of topics might include assessment, collaborative learning, doctoral programs in math education, Standards and textbooks, elementary course requirements, and announcements of available positions.
A modest level of activity (4-6 messages per day) makes participation quite manageable. You may subscribe to this list by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the command " subscribe amte Firstname Lastname".
This group belongs to the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC). It is dedicated to discussions of all topics relating to mathematics education, although most conversations are about developmental math programs, textbooks, the use of graphing calculators, and topics from calculus on down.
Subscription requests may be sent to email@example.com with the command "subscribe mathedcc" in the body of the message. The Math Forum hosts this group's archives.
Bonnie Gold of Wabash College is responsible for this list which focuses on developmental/remedial mathematics. So far it has seen a very low level of activity. The archives are hosted by the MAA.
Subscription requests may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org with the command "subscribe developmental-math-list" in the body of the message.
Frederick Rickey of Bowling Green State University manages this rich group hosted by the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). It's intended for serious historians of math history, but that doesn't stop many of us from watching from the sidelines. World-class mathematicians and math historians chime in to answer questions ranging from the familiar and relatively uninteresting "why m for slope?" to the more provocative question of zero as a natural number to the fascinating history of Egyptian fractions, and the highly specialized interest in the connection between Caratheodory and 'Carnot geometry'.
While activity is usually at the level of 10 questions a day, it sometimes rises to more than 30. Subscription requests may be sent to email@example.com with the command "subscribe math-history-list". The MAA also maintains an archive of this group.
AP-CALC and AP-STAT
Both of these lists are supported by the College Board, although it only hosts ap-calc; ap-stat is run by Jim Swift out of a school district in British Columbia. The two lists are designed to those who are preparing pre-college students for the Advanced Placement tests. However, the level of discussion and the explicit relation to the college sequence may make them appropriate for many instructors of introductory undergraduate calculus and statistics. While focused on mathematics, the discussions can range into K-12 issues such as block scheduling.
Both lists are fairly active, with 10-20 messages a day. Subscribe to ap-calc by visiting the subscription page.
Subscription requests for ap-stat should go to firstname.lastname@example.org with the command "subscribe apstat-l <your email address>".
The American Mathematical Society (AMS) hosts this discussion around reform of the curriculum and teaching of calculus and linear algebra, including differential equations. A number of developers of reform curricula and projects belong to the list, and the conversation, while it fluctuates a good deal in volume, is a good mix of theoretical issues and concrete practices. Unfortunately, there appears to be no easy access to its archives.
In order to join the list, send an email to email@example.com with the command "subscribe calc-reform".
AMS also hosts a REAL-ANAYLSIS group moderated by Lee Larson at the University of Louisville.
While geometry-college is a natural place to start, most of the messages sent to it involve only college-level geometry problems, and geometry-pre-college is a more active group where you'll find K-12, college, and research faculty mixing together to discuss teaching. A good group for graduate-level investigations is geometry-research.
Send subscription requests to firstname.lastname@example.org with the message "subscribe geometry-pre-college".
In the wild and woolly world of Internet newsgroups there's a cluster of useful discussions in the sci.math hierarchy. The main group, sci.math, is known for its freewheeling messages and an overwhelming amount of activity. Fortunately this character does not infect its siblings.
sci.math.num-analysis, sci.math.research, sci.stat.math, and sci.math.symbolic are all quite focused, with substantive mathematical content. The activity of the symbolic group overlaps to some extent with the Matlab and Mathematica discussions described below but it is open to other systems as well, most notably Maple.
Two active newsgroups provide an opportunity for users of these software packages to help each other; occasionally the developers pitch in as well. There is also a mailing list for Mathematica users and this list's messages are sent on to the newsgroup. (For more information, see http://www.wolfram.com/mathgroup/.) MathWorks also provides an archive of the Matlab newsgroup (newsreader.mathworks.com).
This new list, started by Ron Buckmire of Occidental College, addresses the teaching of Complex Analysis. While too young to evaluate, it looks to be another useful addition to the resources for undergraduate mathematics education. Mail your subscription requests to email@example.com with the command "subscribe ca-teach".
As yet there are no easily accessed archives for this group. Ron also runs a low-activity numerical analysis group.
If there are no Web archives for a list, one can usually retrieve monthly digests via email by sending a command to the list server. This should be explained in the welcome message one receives upon subscribing. Save this message; you'll want to refer to it when you unsubscribe or to accomplish other administrative tasks.
Send me your comments. Let me know which groups you find useful and I will revise this living document.
The Math Forum