Computer-aided assessment in mathematical sciences

Grant Keady, Gary Fitz-Gerald, Greg Gamble, Chris Sangwin


In this paper Computer Aided Assessment (CAA) systems involving the delivery of questions across the web that are underpinned by Computer Algebra (CA) packages are discussed. This underpinning allows students to enter answers, have them parsed by the CA system, have them type-checked by the CA system, which are then passed through a marking procedure which can recognize any correct form of the answer. The underpinning CA also allows model solutions to be generated (immediately for formative assessment but after due-dates for summative ones) and to provide many other useful forms of feedback. With the increasing demand from students for focused feedback on their work in an environment of increasing class sizes and decreasing funding such tested alternative mechanisms to the more traditional labour intensive ones provided by the marking of hand written assessment tasks is becoming essential. In this way, these systems are as much about `Computer Aided Learning’ as they are for `Assessment’.

Such CAA systems have been successfully used in a moderate number of Mathematics Departments. This paper publicizes their availability, and how they are being used, to a wider community of disciplines such as physics, engineering and mathematical economics. The authors believe such disciplines would greatly benefit from using such systems to support their teaching and learning strategies. Since the underpinning CA packages are widely used by physicists (and, in some cases, written by physicists) their discipline is especially well placed to exploit such CAA systems.

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