minimise syntax errors in secondary school maths exams using Mathematica
June 12, 2013 8:44 PM Subscribe
In high school maths exams students when use Mathematica to solve problems, a syntax error that costs a lot of time to find can lose a student a lot of marks. What strategies can teachers use to reduce the risk or cost of syntax errors to students sitting high-stakes exams?
posted by kandinski to Education (7 answers total)
I'm asking this one for Mrs Kandinski. She's a substitute maths teacher in an Australian (Victorian) secondary school that uses Mathematica both in lessons and in exams. Students have to sit a maths exam using Mathematica as a tool to solve problems. Students in many schools use CAS calculators instead, like the TI-Inspire line. Compared to using CAS calculators, the school believes that Mathematica offers the students a better learning environment and the opportunity to acquire some skills that are transferable and will be more useful in the future.
The problem with using Mathematica is that, in an exam situation, students risk losing a great deal of time to syntax errors. The exams are state-wide and very high stakes for the students and the school (university entry relies on these exams). CAS calculators are not as "risky" to use, in this regard, as Mathematica. So she is asking whether anyone can explain their strategies to minimise the cost to students of making simple syntax errors in exams.
This must be a problem for teachers in IT or programming subjects at similar levels (end of high school, start of university). So maybe teachers in other fields would have some insight or suggestions.
The school is heavily invested in using Mathematica for this, and believes that the overall benefits outweigh the risks, so just changing back to CAS is not an option for solving this problem.