When high school teacher Kevin Conway was a student, he enrolled in a first year calculus class at the University of Guelph, Canada. Up to that point, his experience with math classes was similar to many other students: the instructor would stand in front of the class, write down problems on the chalkboard, and students would make notes and check their work. However, on his first day of first year calculus, Kevin and his classmates were in for a surprise that would transform their impression of using technology in math education.

During his first class, the calculus professor announced that Maple T.A., Maplesoft’s advanced testing and assessment tool for any class involving mathematics, would be a heavily used tool in the course. Students would be able use it for efficient study and practice, and the professors would use Maple T.A. for automatic grading of assignments and tests.

Kevin was not convinced using such a tool was the best use of his time. “I was skeptical when I first heard we would be using an online testing and assessment tool,” Kevin explained. “I didn’t think there was any room in a math class for technology. I was unable to see how Maple T.A. would fit into the course. I certainly didn’t trust a computer program to mark my tests, and I was so used to learning math on a chalkboard that anything else seemed less trustworthy.” Despite Kevin’s reluctance, though, he soon discovered first-hand the impact that Maple T.A. can have on students’ success in mathematics. The tests were designed to have students study and learn the material presented in the class during the week. This allowed him to be more prepared for midterms and exams.

A few days before the first test, the professor informed the class that he was making use of a unique feature in Maple T.A. that allowed the students to take the test online as many times as they wished. The professor explained that he had chosen to do this – having also the option in Maple T.A. to set the test to a one time use - so students can learn from their mistakes each time and hone their understanding of the concept. This would give the students a very good chance to earn a perfect grade! “As a student who aims to achieve the best possible grade, this aspect of Maple T.A. was very appealing to me,” continued Kevin. “By being able to take the test again and again, I was able to learn the concept better, identify where I went wrong, and fix my mistakes. This feature quickly made Maple T.A. a popular asset with students.”

Maple T.A. reinforces and solidifies students’ understanding of new concepts learned in class without the added pressure and anxiety of performing poorly on in-class tests. Students can more effectively study the material at their own pace and in their own time. Kevin noted, “Student success begins with opportunities to learn and grow both in the classroom and outside the classroom. Students need to be able to take risks without the fear of a bad grade showing up on their paper. Maple T.A. makes this a real possibility by being an engaging assignment tool and assessment method.”

Reflecting on his own risk-taking, Kevin notes, “I was able to explore mathematics in ways I never thought possible prior to using Maple T.A. As a student, I found Maple T.A. to be a phenomenal learning tool. It inspired in me a curiosity to dig deeper, explore other concepts, and experiment with the ‘what-ifs’ of math.”

Kevin’s love and enthusiasm for math grew as he advanced in his academic program of choice. When he graduated, he decided to become a teacher in the hope of getting his own students just as enthusiastic about mathematics. Currently a high school teacher, Kevin recommends using Maple T.A. to show students that mathematics is much easier than they think. “I believe Maple T.A. will teach students that math is much more than a chalk and blackboard type of subject. I believe students will begin to have their own ‘ah-ha’ moments and as a result, their impression of mathematics will be transformed!”

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Highlights

- Despite Kevin Conway's initial reluctance, he discovered the positive impact Maple T.A. can have on student success in mathematics
- Students were allowed a few days before to take the test online as many times as they wished to hone their understanding
- Maple T.A. reinforces students’ understanding of new concepts learned in class without the anxiety of performing poorly on in-class tests

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