Fomative Maths Assessment: Numbas

Numbas logo

I have recently heard about a maths question authoring system for on-line assessment called Numbas (https://numbas.mathcentre.ac.uk/). Developed and extensively used at Newcastle University, it is available to everyone on an Open Source (Apache 2.0) license.

Numbas screenshot

There have been a number of such systems created over the last few years (STACK, and METRIC, for example), but Numbas seems to be the right mix between a user-friendly interface for both staff and students, and required power features such as random variables, and authoring in latex. Moreover the system almost entirely runs in the browser of the person answering questions, meaning that the system doesn’t require a (or indeed any) back-end work from the University or departments. Sadly this final point means that without setting up locked browsers, usage is only appropriate for formative assessment, as it’s just too easy for people to cheat should they feel the need.

Key features of the system for authors:

  • Random variables can be defined that are subject to constraints (eg integer between 2 and 10, twice another variable, and logical expressions)
  • These variables can be included in both question text, formulae, hints and worked solutions
  • Latex entry in all areas
  • Hundreds of example questions to be used and modified
  • Very user-friendly authoring interface.

Key features of the system for students:

  • Real time display of typeset answer before submission (eg typing in x^2/3 will display x^2/3, so a student will know to change to x^(2/3) if they want x^\frac{2}{3})
  • Unlimited variants on questions – clicking on “show another question of this type” will reload the question with new variables
  • It works on all browsers, mobile platforms etc
  • Opportunity to receive hints, and  worked solutions for the actual question they are struggling with (subject to the author including them, that is).

A complete presentation was given as part of the Transforming Assessment webinar series:

Over the coming months myself and the e-learning development team will be looking at Blackboard’s own latex question authoring and comparing with Numbas. Expect a show and tell over the next few months with our findings…

2 responses to “Fomative Maths Assessment: Numbas

  1. Pingback: Feedback through the VLE and Beyond: Tools and Techniques | E-Learning Development Team·

  2. Pingback: Building online maths assessments using Numbas – 4th July 2013 | E-Learning Development Team·

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