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Behind the Spotlight

S.O.S. Mathematics: Read how these three Math Professors put their help site online!  By Betsey Lenz, Editor

      Three University Professors are the web publishers behind, S.O.S. Mathematics. Check out what Amine Khamsi, a Math Professor at the University of Texas-El Paso, says about their site (1/2000):

BL, editor: How did you get online?

Amine: The three of us, Nancy Marcus, Helmut Knaust, and myself, are math professors at the University of Texas-El Paso. In the Spring of '96, we started thinking about creating a mathematics help site for our students. After securing funding from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the U of T, S.O.S. Mathematics went online in August '96. At this point, our site was strictly a University Site.

BL, editor: How did you get started with your current site?


we quickly found out the appeal of a free mathematics help site extended far beyond El Paso


Amine: Well, we quickly found out the appeal of a free mathematics help site extended far beyond El Paso. We decided to become independent, and our university supported us, so we started a commercial reiteration of our site. In April 1999, S.O.S. Mathematics moved to its current location online: http://www.sosmath.com/.


BL, editor: How much time do you spend on your site?

Amine: How much time we spend on our site really varies. During “maintenance time,” we spend maybe a combined average of 15 hours per week. When we develop new content, usually in the summer, this becomes a full-time job for all three of us!

BL, editor: Who are your customers?

Amine: Most of our users are high school and college students, parents wanting to help their schoolchildren, teachers, and professionals. Also, we have a lot of adult users who want to prepare for a return to college. Last fall we created a "Cyberboard," which allows for direct interaction with our users, and we also ran a user survey.

BL, editor: What advice would you give a newbie going online today?

Amine: We have two, no let's make that three, pieces of advice for anyone starting an online company:
First, be Patient! Even if you have a wonderful idea and create a beautiful site, it will take some time before users will find you. During the summer of 1996, we enthusiastically spent hours and hours developing our content, but our user response during the next six months was meager. It took about 12 to 18 months before we felt that we had enough visitors to support our efforts.

be Patient



keep it simple


Second, keep it simple! Before we developed the site, we spent quite a bit of time discussing the desired feel of our site. And, I think we got it right. Even though our web site has about 2,500 HTML pages, our users can easily find the content they are looking for. Putting mathematical formulae on the web is a technical challenge, but we've kept the download time for each of our pages rather short.
Third, it is fun to work in a group! A lot of our satisfaction in the development of our site has come from the three of us being a wonderful team!

work in a group




1999 BURST! Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


1999 BURST! Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.