- Peer Review: “Maths Online”
- Apr 4, 2004 by Mathematics
- Maths Online is a medium-sized collection of interactive material at the lower division college mathematics level. The material originated with various projects coordinated at the University of Vienna and is perhaps not as well known as some of the larger US sites. The site includes a gallery of java applets with an accompanying set of interactive tests, a puzzle creation page, an extensive collection of online java math tools that open in separate browser windows for simultaneous use with other site pages, and an excellent collection of links to other math learning materials and collections of resources. Classroom suggestions, project worksheets, and the ability to provide feedback to the authors are provided. In addition, an online HTML formula tool is given along with other ideas about how to render math symbols in web browsers.
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- Type of Material:
- Mainly interactive java applets.
- Recommended Uses:
- These applets would be appropriate for use in student discovery activities.
- Technical Requirements:
- Java enabled browser. As usual there are some compatibility difficulties with different operating systems and browsers of different ages. The site includes a page that mentions some of the known side effects of different configurations. There are several mirror sites for this material.
- Identify Major Learning Goals:
- The authors describe their goal as promoting new ways of learning and understanding mathematics ? particularly in regard to abstract structures. Interaction rather than explanation is the primary objective
- Target Student Population:
- The materials here range from basic mathematics through calculus and linear algebra.
- Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
- No specific prerequisites are needed other than standard background for the level of mathematics selected. All topics are lower division college mathematics.
- The site has won many web awards. As well as its own material, the site includes a comprehensive list of other available tools and sites.
The gallery section includes over 50 dynamical diagrams that react to user input and are designed to facilitate understanding ? it includes applets, graphics and other programs organized by broad mathematical topics, e.g., sets, polar coordinates, sequences and series, functions, differentiation, integration, etc.
The interactive tests section includes multiple choice tests, puzzles, and other interactive tests for over 25 items such as sets, variables, equations, functions, limits, derivatives and integration.
The online tools section includes dozens of simple and effective java tools from Maths Online, the MathServe Project at Vanderbilt University, and other sources.
The links section includes a number of links to other web resources for mathematics ordered by topic such as numbers, geometry, trigonometry, linear algebra, fractals, etc.
The collections section includes links to a number of large collections of math resources such as Math Forum, UTK Math Archives, The Geometry Center, Java Sketchpad, GEONET, and others U.S. and international sites.
The puzzle workshop allows creation of your own mathematical puzzles by use of preformatted java.
The site lists a large group of university and K-12 collaborators plus several governmental and corporate sponsors.
- There is limited explanation of the underlying mathematics ? more complete explanations are available in German.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
- The java applets provide a wide range of opportunities for interactive learning. Students may observe the effect of changes in coefficients in polynomial graph plots,
in the derivatives and integrals of functions, and much more. The applets are simple and effective and would certainly enhance the teaching/learning process.
The site includes many opportunities for feedback, including email, web forms, and regular mail. The authors appear eager for feedback and maintain an online archive of user comments. Many of the links are to sites different from those normally encountered by an American user. The ability to create your own simple puzzles is a nice feature.
- Users desiring explanation of the underlying mathematics will need to explore other resources ? but, given the goal of encouraging interaction, this is acceptable.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
- Site navigation is excellent; java applets pop up in separate browser windows.
Most of the applets work effectively in a variety of MAC and Windows environments and the controls are relatively simple.
The authors make the entire site available for download (as a zip file) for offline viewing for those who may have slow or inaccessible internet connections.
The authors provide a Java functionality test that users can perform to determine whether their computer is able to run the Java applets on the site.
- The use of English may be somewhat formal for some American students but this should not affect the ability to understand the material. A German language version is available. As usual, operating system and browser compatibility is of some concern.
In some browser configurations, a number of the java applets popped ?under?, which may be confusing to novice web users.