The Web site, MathOnline (http://mathonline.missouri.edu), is popular with students and teachers because it provides free tests students can use for practice or self-evaluation and teachers and colleges can use for assessment and placement. Prospective MU students use this site to prepare for the MMPT and MPECA, two tests that place first-year students in math courses.
“Encouraging students to test their skills and understanding is one way to help them. These tests help students achieve a common core of mathematical skills,” said Saab, who has received e-mails from people who use the site around the country. “Furthermore, such testing provides a tool for schools and teachers to assess their students’ readiness in mathematics to come to MU or to any other college. High school students can take some of our placement tests during their sophomore year. This way, they will have two years to correct any weakness in their Mathematical background.”
MathOnline provides interactive tests in high school geometry, algebra and trigonometry, as well as for placement in first-year calculus and college algebra. Options allow users to personalize tests by choosing the number of problems (from 5 to 75, in denominations of 5) and whether the questions are multiple choice or single-answer blanks. Teachers also can standardize tests by asking students to enter a number in a blank that sets parameters for the tests, ensuring that all students, taking tests from different computers at different times, receive the same test problems.
After students finish tests, they receive immediate feedback. The site gives the correct answer with a detailed explanation for each problem and includes a database of problems large enough that students can take similar tests several times without repeating questions.
“Teaching experience has shown that the majority of students learn mathematics by doing practice problems, not simply by reading lecture notes. Practice problems and assessments are essential to ensure that students have understood mathematical procedures well enough to do them on their own,” Saab said. “Our approach is to provide immediate feedback to correct and incorrect answers with detailed solutions for all the problems. Students can continue to try tests with the same kind of problems until they understand and master all such types of problems. Students not only get tested, but they learn the subject while doing it.”