The aim of this 2013-14 project was to generate large banks of applied numeracy Moodle questions to support the teaching of basic maths in Biochemistry and Chemistry. We employed and trained six students studying these subjects to create new randomised question banks in Moodle XML using PHP. Mathematical expressions were coded in LaTeX for MathJax, so that when displayed in Moodle, they would be fully accessible in all browsers, on small screens and can be magnified or read aloud if required. This method of displaying equations in Moodle is now the only available method at Bath. We have also produced the questions in a way that makes them fully accessible to disabled students by formatting the maths in MathJax.All the new questions were tested by students (although not all errors were picked up) and some of the new questions were used for formative and small-stakes summative assessment with Biochemistry Students. We have made the questions available through the top level of Moodle, and the XML and the PHP files through an online blog.
Dr Hazel Corradi, Senior Teaching Fellow, Department of Biology and Biochemistry: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof Steve Parker, Department of Chemistry
Dr Barrie Cooper, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mathematics, University of Exeter
Dr Emma Cliffe , MASH Development Officer
Students : Alan Osborn, Jamie Lynch and Natalie Sheffield (Biochemistry), Oli Stark, Beth Glaisyer and Dan Wotton (Chemistry)
Aims & Rationale
Despite the great relevance of mathematics to scientific disciplines (Cohen, 2004), scientific numeracy is an increasing problem in cases where students on science degrees have not studied post-16 mathematics (Tariq, 2005). These students, who have usually not studied maths for 2 years, not only have a wide range of abilities but also lack confidence (Foster, 2008). In addition, there are some who also struggle with a dislike or phobia of maths (Quinnell et. al., 2012). Therefore, resources that enable them to practice the numeracy skills they need in their own time and at their own pace are invaluable to building their confidence in this key area. Furthermore, we think that students are most motivated when questions are provided both within the context of their discipline (Foster, 2008), but also within the context of their own assessment process and virtual learning environment. Therefore, based on a methodology from our collaborator in Exeter, we have developed large randomised question banks that allow students to attempt calculations multiple times with different variables. Because the variables change each time, we can use these questions for formative and low-stakes summative assessment. We have also produced the questions in a way that makes them fully accessible, both to disabled students and for all students using small-screen devices such as IPads. This was achieved by formatting the maths in MathJax which is now the only available method of displaying equations in Moodle at Bath.
Outcomes / Outputs
This project produced:
- 95 question types (each with 100 questions) which are currently available on request through Moodle. Most of these are applied calculations linking to either Chemistry or Biochemistry;
- An older pilot question set of 31 questions have been updated with hints and worked solutions;
- The files associated with these questions and a tutorial on how to use, adapt and write these questions are available on the project blog: http://blogs.bath.ac.uk/mathsequiz/about/
Using these questions to create aligned formative and summative quizzes in Biochemistry has been a huge success in increasing student engagement with maths. The uptake of the weekly quizzes is high, and this year no one failed the end of semester test for the first time. Students are now aware of the maths needed for the course and like the safety of being able to practice calculations many times. The scores for this part of the unit are good.