To Sum It All Up

Mathematics Senior Lecturer, Theresa Adsit, shares thoughts on her CATL Teaching Enhancement Grant funded project…

Having enjoyed the benefits of having randomized, computer generated homework problems available to assign to my Calculus and Intermediate Algebra students, I wanted to extend those same benefits to my Elementary Functions: Algebra and Trigonometry Math 104 students.  My goal was to create a computer test bank of 250 homework problems on that may be randomized to create a much larger number of problems.

I have completed about 300 problems that precisely fit our text.  The goal was to create Webassign problems that coordinate with the text we use at UWGB. works with numerous publishers and creates collections of homework, quiz and test problems specific to each text.  Each student logging into Webassign has a different problem created from the problem template that the instructor has assigned.  Mary Guy, James Meyer and I have written a textbook that we use here for Math 104 and use as an eBook on Webassign, Precalculus Essentials: A Spiral Approach.  Due to our small student population, Webassign will not create problems for us specific to our text.  Instead, they have made available another Precalculus text from which we can select computer generated problems.  Unfortunately, these problems are not quite the same scope (which is one reason we wrote our own text in the first place). Our book has a number of topics not typically addressed in a Precalculus text.

I have included an example to demonstrate the coding.  Here is the coding I enter into Webassign’s interface:


Here is what the student sees.  The numbers in red change from student to student:


I really like using the computer generated, randomized problems in my math classes.  The daily homework that I assign compels much of the students’ learning.  However, too often students are content to just get the answer instead of actually thinking about the process they are completing and why the steps are mathematically correct.  If students are working together on the same problem, even this low level of mere repetition may not be happening.  In contrast, if students each have a different problem created by computer randomization, they have to think about their individual problem.  Besides that, students can practice another version of the same problem to make sure they understand the process or required steps.  Additionally, with a computerized random question generator, take home quizzes are unique to each student.

Students seem to apply themselves more diligently to figure out the answers to their homework problems using Webassign versus using problems from the text.  They ask more questions in class and in emails.  If they don’t understand the problem well enough to figure out the correct answer, they keep working away until they get it, which is great to see!

Besides using these problems for homework, it is wonderful to have a randomized test bank available for when I unexpectedly end up having an extra 10 minutes or so available in class.  I can quickly grab problems to have the students work on in groups in class and then make the problems into a randomized practice set for students to work on outside of class if they would like more practice.  Students have asked for these sets so that they can get more practice in a particular area.

 My next step is to make Kahn style videos to link with many of the problems that I created.  I plan to work on that this summer.

Mike CrumTheresa Adsit,
Senior Lecturer,

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