Day 22 & 23 – Meetings, Meetings and More Meetings

It was by Wednesday that we realised that this week would be characterised by meetings – lots of them. However, Wednesday itself was a quiet start as most of the team continued to work on tasks that had already been started.

Edna and George started to explore the full capabilities of Maple TA’s grade book. They created some sample assignments and we each had a go so that we could simulate a class of students attempting some revision questions, to see what it looks like when a teacher views these attempts.

Later, Greg announced that we would be heading outside to do some more juggling and that he would be assigning us some very serious and definitely not made up levels. I managed to achieve level 4 and a half, although Jordan was well in the lead in the lofty heights of level 13.

On Thursday the meetings started to increase in frequency, as we met with two members of staff within the Theory Group about some Physics modules. Jordan, George and I met with Dr Rob Smith to discuss writing questions for the 3rd year Radiation and Relativity module. Additionally George, Mi and Dan met with Dr Martin Long to discuss the 1st year Maths for Physicists module.

Although the meetings were fairly brief, we each left with a clear idea of what our next step was. For Dr Long, we will be sending some appropriate questions that already exist within Maple TA to give him an idea of what the system can do. For Dr Smith we will be some converting multiple-choice questions from STACK and investigate the writing of some exam-style questions to supplement them.

Friday will be a hectic day as we have meetings scheduled with Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry and a new department – Computer Science.

Ciao for now!


Day 20 & 21 – Meeting with Chemistry II

Hello, everyone!

Meeting with Dr Ian Shannon, from the School of Chemistry

Our week started with a second meeting with the School of Chemistry. This time Dan and I met with Dr Ian Shannon to discuss where Maple TA could be used to supplement the teaching delivery within Chemistry.

We were given two distinct projects both concerning experiments, which was quite exciting given that we had not yet extended Maple TA to this type of tasks!

Our first job consists on setting up an error analysis worksheet. The team agreed that this quite fit within the Maple TA framework and was a natural extension of work that had already been undertaken. What is more, it could potentially be generalized and extended to other subjects, where lab work plays an important role!

The second task we were assigned  brought up some interesting challenges which we are very keen to explore, e.g. Input of student data, and validating it against experimentally reasonable values, just to name a few. We shall endeavor to pilot this and will keep you updated on our progress!

As for the rest of the team, while Dan and I were at the meeting, they have managed to come to grips with writing MathApps!  Meanwhile, Jordan and Rob continued expanding our repository and Ben has joined them on this quest!  As a consequence, we now have grading code that is tailored to the maths required in each question!

Tuesday saw another round of testing as well as some MathApp writing. On the afternoon, all of us met individually with Nicola for a brief chat about the project.

That is all for now.


Days 18&19 – We’re halfway there (but goodbye from Helen)!

The end of the week brought about a whole new wave of testing with questions for Maths and Mech Eng forming the bulk of the work. Fortunately, on this occasion most of the changes that had to be made were relatively small. This is probably mostly due to us being better at writing questions, and the very useful question repository!

image image

Friday was exciting because we sent off our first round of questions to another department. 4 class tests were delivered to Mech Eng, along with a set of sample questions including randomization and feedback. These were mostly developed by Helen and Mike C.

Dan has spent the day creating a MathApp to model the Boltzmann distribution for Chemistry. It allows students to change various parameters and see the effect on the distribution. It also shows the RMS speed, average speed and most probable speed. (Latest status: it’s working!)

Today is my last day because I’m going away from next week. It’s safe to say I’m not going to miss getting up really early (well, 6 a.m – it’s early to me!) to commute to Birmingham.

To do list – it seems to be getting shorter!

I’ve really enjoyed having the opportunity to work as part of a fun and enthusiastic team creating resources that will hopefully make a real difference to the learning experience of students throughout the College.

Good luck with the rest of the project guys, I’ll be keeping an eye on the blog!

~ Helen

Days 15,16 & 17 – Meeting with Chemistry

We’re back! These past few days have certainly been productive in terms of question writing. We’ve started working on Maths tutorials for Mechanical Engineering and things are going smoothly. We’ve also continued working on Maths questions and most of them are ready for testing!

This Wednesday Edna and Helen and I met with Dr. Sarah Horswell to discuss about implementing Maple TA in the School of Chemistry. We were delighted to hear that most of the types of questions she told us about could be implemented in Maple TA and possibly even be improved. She also gave us good tips on designing multiple choice questions in order to make the students pay close attention to what is being expected from them (for example, check if they forget to convert degrees Celsius to Kelvin).

It seems that the key features for  Chemistry will be adaptive questions and MathApps. The former should be designed mainly to give adaptive feedback and let the students know about the mistakes they are making as accurately as possible. Again, the team will be investigating the implementation of conditional feedback. The latter have great potential in creating interactive environments such as functions which depend on parameters whose values we can vary freely.

imageToday, we also had a general meeting where we presented our progress to Jon and Nicola. The main topics included setting up deadlines for the things we’re working on at the moment, work on individual projects on topics we suggested when applying for the internship, investigating the possiblity of identifying questions which could be useful to more than one department (and setting up an infrastructure for that) and, last but not least, making our efforts known to the general public towards the end of the internship.

imageIn the upcoming days we’ll start testing the questions we’ve written these past few days. That should keep us busy for a while, but fortunately we’ll also get some MathApps up and running!

Dan, over and out.


Day 14 – Part III Conference Call with Maplesoft

In the afternoon Jon, Jordan and Rob had a conference call with some helpful Maple TA developers. In this call they discussed some of the queries we had about writing questions to see if they had any solutions.

Many things we had found were already known by the developers.  We found that some of them were by design, it was useful to learn more about why.  Other inquiries will be addressed in due time.  Some of our requests were for features they had not come across before. They will therefore be investigating these further. Fortunately, they were able to give us a fix to our largest problem – the switch function – so we can now get around this.

Overall the meeting was productive and very useful for us.

That is all for week 3!

~Rob & Jordan

Day 14 – Part II …and Met&Mat

Meanwhile, Helen and Rob navigated their way to Met&Mat through the rain. Having figured out the building layout and located the office, we met with Dr Alessandro Mottura. He had a wide range of exciting (and potentially challenging) tasks for us to complete. 

The first of these involved creating a chemical element lookup table where students are given a random element and asked to input various properties. Rob has started some initial work on this.

The next task is to create randomized graphs for the Young’s Modulus, where the student is asked to read values off the graph or calculate different quantities using the gradient.

The final task is to find a way for students to identify planes in a simple cubic lattice from a given randomized diagram. The challenge here is to find a nice way to make MapleTA generate the images required in the question.

These may give us an opportunity to explore MathApps in the near future, by means of creating interactive simulations!


Day 14 – Part I Meeting with the Maths Department…

Friday morning was a busy day for us since we had meetings with Maths and Metallurgy and Materials. 

Edna and Jordan together with Jon and Dr Nicola Wilkin met with Dr Dirk Hermans, from the Maths Department. After presenting the work  accomplished so far on the Maths questions, we discussed the improvements to both the student and instructor experience as well as the learning environment using Maple TA. Dr Hermans seemed pleased with all the possibilities that can be explored through both adaptive questions and assignments. 

 The meeting itself proved to be very useful to us as it provided us with an insight on the pedagogical side of the writing process. For instance, we have been dealing with writing feedback for matrices questions for a while but it had not crossed our minds that in order to avoid computational mistakes, it would be beneficial to minimize division as much as possible. We were also alerted to the need of looking for ways to create “nice” answers. One example of this would be to use upper/lower triangular matrices so that one can pick the properties in order to generate a nice matrix.

 The meeting left us with many different things to think about and some new options to explore. These include exploring the gradebook features and providing conditional feedback, all key elements in aiding at the learning experience. 


Day 12 and 13 – Meeting with Mechanical Engineering

Hello, everyone!

The end of the week saw our workload increase as we started meeting with other departments, which means we now have a wide range of exciting new projects to work on using Maple TA.

Wednesday morning started with a short training session from Jon on how to use MathApps. These are extremely useful tools for creating interactive resources that enable students to explore different mathematical and scientific topics. We have all been challenged to have a go at writing an example that can be adapted later on. 

Wednesday also saw our first visit to another department. Helen and Michael C. hiked over to Mechanical Engineering to meet with Dr Aziza Mahomed.  

Helen getting ready for the first meeting

Prior to our internship, some of the Theoretical Physics PhD students had written up some questions for Mech Eng class tests, which we went through. We agreed to optimize these and, in addition, adapt one of the tests to provide an example including randomization and feedback. This will give them an example of where some of the other features of MapleTA can be incorporated into class tests if desired.

The rest of the day and Thursday involved further writing and testing of Maths and Quantum Mechanics questions, as well as starting work for Mech Eng. In addition, Rob and Jordan were working on expanding the repository so that it meets all of our requirements. The repository is essentially a bank of grading code that can be used in all types of question. This has proved incredibly useful as it provides consistent marking and speeds up the question writing process.   

More to follow!

~Edna and Helen

Day 11 – Presentations

We arrived in the morning in time for our first juggling lesson since our tame Juggling Master Greg returned.  We are looking forward to our first theoretical juggling lesson later this week.


After that, we started preparing presentations to show what we had achieved over the first two weeks.  After battling the projector again we finally managed to get it started


We also found out that on Friday afternoon, some of us (Me and Jordan, along with Jon) will be having a conference call directly with one of the developers of MapleTA in order to report the numerous problems we have encountered, and to suggest improvements.


Day 10 – A whole new week

A new week and new questionsIMG_0492. Everyone left behind last week’s Y2 maths questions  and started on a new list of questions (yay!). This list of questions comprised of more maths, Quantum Mechanics 2 and the ever mysteriously named Quantum Mechanics 2.5.

The maths questions were designed for use in class tests so formatting was strict. But the QM ones were for self teaching rather than test environment so they didn’t need to be as robust. Many also didn’t require much randomisation and some were even multiple choice so less work for us.

Jon started a list on the blackboard of problems to report back to maple which quickly got filled with bugs we had found and ideas we had had for improvement.

Jon with the blackboard
Jon with the blackboard
Group meeting with team yellow
Group meeting with team yellow

We encountered problems with using inequalities signs in the answer box as they were getting interpreted as HTML tags. The pressure rose due to the impending doom of tomorrow presentation where we will show Jon and Nicola what we have been up to for the last week.

theory ghost
Another visit from theory ghost Mortimer

Team green member Ben was not back yet but juggling master Greg was and we were all excited for  the lesson that had already been planed for tomorrow.