Creativity in mathematics assessment

Stephen Godfrey, Gina Carmody, Leigh Wood


It is often said that to be a good mathematician you need to be creative. However this is not always shown in the assessment of first year Mathematics. So what does happen when encourage students to be creative in an assessment task?

In many undergraduate mathematics courses most types of assessment is designed to see if the students understand what has been covered in lectures. Timed examinations and difficult assignments are the mainstay of assessment. This makes Mathematics assessment seem to be a hard slog. Indeed attempts to change this are met with resistance from students who do not believe that you can learn mathematics in other ways.

This paper describes an innovative assessment task where students get to show their creative side. This is done by asking students to design objects in three dimensions with the aid of Mathematica. They have the options of using Cartesian, cylindrical and spherical coordinate systems as well as defining curves and surfaces parametrically. The object in the assignment changes each year but the task remains the same.

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