WEB PROJECTS: Grassroots Math Guide

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Science  17 Jun 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5729, pp. 1721
DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5729.1721e

If your favorite Web site suddenly shut down, you could grumble about life's unfairness, or you could decide to build a replacement. Nathan Egge and Aaron Krowne, math and computer science students at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, chose the second course when a math reference they often consulted went offline. Five years later their handiwork, PlanetMath, holds nearly 4400 entries on topics from the ABC conjecture to Zsigmondy's theorem.

PlanetMath's encyclopedia section resembles Wikipedia, with site users writing and reviewing the content. Krowne, now a computer scientist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, estimates that math grad students contribute the largest share of the articles, with college professors, undergrads, and other visitors supplying the rest. Anyone can critique an article, but the author decides whether to revise it. PlanetMath also links to 70 free math texts, more than 30 tutorials and lectures, and a collection of published and unpublished papers.


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