article by Margarita Morales Are
you one of the millions of Americans who consider themselves
mathematically challenged? Does the thought of multiplying fractions
and graphing parabolas make your hair stand on end? Then perhaps
it's time to sit yourself down in front of a computer and check out
S.O.S. Mathematics, a website designed to help even the most
math-phobic students ace their classes. S.O.S. Mathematics can be
found at www.sosmath.com. The site was designed by UTEP math
professors Mohamed Khamsi, Helmut Knaust, and Nancy Marcus.
Students often forget previous math material, which affects their
performance in current classes, Knaust said.
"During class, some professors and I noticed that many students
had forgotten the prerequisite material," he said.
"This makes it difficult for students to learn, because in math,
one concept is always buried under another."
In order to solve this problem, Knaust, Khamsi, and Marcus began
developing the website three years ago with funding from the
university. Now the website is available to a worldwide audience and
receives more than 50,000 page hits a week.
"Our audience ranges from kids in middle school to senior
citizens who just want to relearn their math," Knaust said. "We
decided to take the concepts that students most often have trouble
with and present them to a larger audience. Our ambition is to cover
everything from the last two years of high school to the first two
years of college."
Knaust said the website helps students practice and review math
material, but should not be used as a substitute for reading the
book or listening to professors.
"The program was designed as a review for the things you might
have forgotten in the past," Knaust said. "We assume you'll
recognize concepts you learned a long time ago, and this will get
you in shape again."
On the website, students can find assistance with topics such as
algebra, trigonometry, calculus, differential equations and complex
equations. The material is presented in worksheet format and
requires students to actively participate in the learning process.
"We don't waste a lot of time on formal instructions," Knaust
said. "We present some background, but it's mostly practice
exercises so students can try the material on their own. The
majority of people who use the website write to us saying they
really like it."
Although S.O.S. Mathematics is already 2,500 pages long, Knaust
said the website is constantly under construction. He also mentioned
that the website is no longer funded by the university, but stands
on its own as an independent commercial product.
"The good thing about S.O.S. Math is it shows the university that
professors can come up with products that are commercially useful,"