Math Open Reference - why it exists

There is a paradigm shift of immense proportions overtaking us all.  In almost all aspects of our lives, control is shifting from the providers of information to its consumers. Put another way, there is a shift from 'push' to 'pull' which we see everywhere, and it will have a profound effect on how education happens. The effect of this will be a changed emphasis from teaching to learning. Math Open Reference is designed to be a tool for this new era, empowering both the teachers and learners.

Examples are everywhere

This switch from push to pull are all around us and is causing entire industries to falter. Newspaper circulation is in serious decline. This is a 'push' industry where the editors decide what you will read and when. Broadcast television is in similar decline, supplanted by Netflix and other video streaming. The new delivery mechanisms all have one thing in common: they allow the consumer to decide what to watch and when. A control shift. VCRs were simply a device for converting push to pull, handing control to the consumer. Radio is supplanted by podcasts.

What caused it?

The Internet. And Google. For the first time, the user has been confronted with a machine that says "I have this vast store of text, videos, sound, news, things to buy.    What would you like?"   It then delivers it all instantly. This amounts to a shift of control of astonishing power. Small wonder that the old push industries are fading away.

So what does it mean for education?

If this pattern is repeated, it means that there will be change in emphasis from teaching (push) to learning (pull). This is sometimes called project based education, where the student is confronted with projects that require a certain set of knowledge and skills to accomplish. To the student, school suddenly makes more sense. The reason for learning all this stuff becomes clearer.

As a result of all this, the students need access to skills and knowledge when and where they want it. In other words, they expect to be able to 'pull' what they need at a time and place of their choosing.

Sound familiar?

Math Open Reference

Math Open Reference is a free, web based reference source for students and teachers. It can be found at

This project has three goals:

  1. To be a source of math information to students any time, any place.
  2. To move beyond static, boring text towards engaging interactive content. Example: Incircle of a triangle
  3. To provide instructors with the tools they need to move away from teaching, and towards learning facilitators.

The idea is to provide free, high quality math reference material on the web. It is highly interactive and contains many engaging animations. ( Example: Definition of a cube). The game generation is expecting no less. At the moment, the only subject is geometry, but this has proved to be highly popular (see User emails). During the school year, it gets approximately 3 million visits per month.

The future

Ideally, this idea would be expanded into a set of reference books covering all of K-12 math. There is also no reason to suppose it would not work well for other topics too, especially in science and technology. (STEM). It would seem logical to try and build on this idea faster than one person can do alone, as I have done with the geometry reference book. So I am seeking sources of funding to accelerate this project and bring about the benefits more quickly.

John Page is a software designer living in California's Silicon Valley. He is the author of the free online geometry reference book Math Open Reference.

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