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Issues with setting online objective mathematics questions and testing their efficacy

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conference contribution
posted on 2009-04-23, 12:50 authored by N. Baruah, Mundeep Gill, Martin Greenhow
The Mathletics database now comprises many mathematical topics from GCSE to level 2 undergraduate. The aim of this short paper is to document, explore and provide some solutions to the pedagogic issues we are facing whilst setting online objective questions across this range. Technical issues are described in the companion paper by Ellis, Greenhow and Hatt (2006). That paper refers to “question styles to stress that we author according to the pedagogic and algebraic structure of the content of a question; random parameters are chosen at runtime ... This results in each style having thousands, or even millions, of realisations seen by the users.” With this emphasis, and with new topics being included, new question types beyond the usual multi-choice (MC) etc have been developed to ask appropriate and challenging questions. We feel that their pedagogic structure (and underlying code) is widely applicable to testing beyond the scope of Mathematics. This paper describes three of the new question types: Word Input, Responsive Numerical Input and 4/True/False/Undecidable/Statement/Property. Of generic importance is the fact that each of these question types can include post-processing of submitted answers; sample Javascript coding that checks the validity of the input(s) before marking takes place is described. In common with most of the rest of the question style’s content this could be exported to other CAA systems. Ellis et al (2005) and Gill & Greenhow (2006) describe initial results of a trial of level 1 undergraduate mechanics questions. This academic year we have expanded the range of tests to foundation and level 1 undergraduate algebra and calculus, involving several hundred students. First and foremost we have underlined the value of Random Numerical Input (RNI) question types compared with traditional Numerical Input (NI) types for which answer files resulting from questions with randomised parameters are exceptionally difficult to interpret. Despite our current lack of a consistent and fullymeaningful way of encoding the mal-rules within the question outcome metadata, mal-rule-based question types (MC, RNI etc) have been analysed in terms of difficulty, discrimination and item analysis. In the case of multiplechoice questions any weaknesses are separately identified as skill-based or conceptual.



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BARUAH, N., GILL, M. and GREENHOW, M., 2006. Issues with setting online objective mathematics questions and testing their efficacy. IN: Danson, M. (ed.). 10th CAA International Computer Assisted Assessment Conference : Proceedings of the Conference on 4th and 5th July 2006 at Loughborough University. Loughborough : Lougborough University, pp. 55-70


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