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Individualised formative worksheets to encourage small group discussion of method

CETL-MSOR Conference 2014, Cardiff University (09/09/2014).

Few would disagree that "students best learn mathematics if they are actively engaged in the process of doing mathematics" (Cox, 2011; p. 149). In exercise classes, students are encouraged to work in small groups on formative assessment questions and learn by doing. In practice, weaker students can be observed simply 'copying along' with their peers; perhaps such students are not actually learning much from the process. An approach was trialled when teaching maths to forensic science students where computer-generated questions are used to provide each student with an individualised, printed sheet of exercises. Each student is given similar but different questions, encouraging discussion of method rather than copying of answers.
Individualised worksheets were generated using the system Numbas, principally a mathematically-aware e-assessment system (Foster, Perfect and Youd, 2012) that can also generate printable question sheets and corresponding answer sheets (Rowlett, 2014). This arrangement was used for nine weeks in topics from basic algebra to basic calculus.
This session will present the Numbas printable worksheet system, examples of the generated worksheets and student feedback on experience of the approach. In feedback, students are distinguished in two groups based on self-reports of how difficult they found the module content.
Cox, B., 2011. Teaching Mathematics in Higher Education - the basics and beyond. Birmingham, U.K.: Maths, Stats and OR Network.
Foster, B., Perfect, C. & Youd, A., 2012. A completely client-side approach to e-assessment and e-learning of mathematics and statistics. International Journal of e-Assessment, 2(2). Available via: [accessed 20/03/2014].
Rowlett, P., 2014. Development and evaluation of a partially-automated approach to the assessment of undergraduate mathematics. In: S. Pope (ed.). Proceedings of the 8th British Congress of Mathematics Education, pp. 325-332.