University of Turin, Local Government, Collaborate on use of Maple T.A. to Increase High School Students' Interest in Math - Maplesoft

User Case Study:
University of Turin, Local Government, Collaborate on use of Maple T.A. to Increase High School Students’ Interest in Math

The University of Turin and the Town of Turin wanted to develop an initiative to support secondary school students and encourage them to stay in school. They required a program to provide continued training to secondary school instructors with regards to innovative teaching and learning in Mathematics.

The University, in conjunction with the town, developed “The Homework School”, a project aimed at reducing secondary school dropout rates, and “Problem Posing and Solving”, a project to foster innovation and ensure continuous training for university instructors. Both projects use Maple T.A., integrated with the Moodle learning management system.

Both projects have been a success. “The Homework School” has increased confidence among high school students, along with homework completion, knowledge and class participation. “The Problem Posing and Solving” project is successfully training teachers in the use of Maple T.A. for assessment in their classes. The program currently includes 900 active teachers, 1200 teachers in training and 18,000 students.

Not only is the University of Turin a successful and long standing user of Maple T.A. in teaching, homework and assessment of Mathematics courses, they have also introduced the benefits of Maple T.A. to other schools while partnering with the local government. The staff at Turin led two very unique projects: “The Homework School” and “Problem Posing and Solving.” Both projects involve the use of Maple T.A. and a deep integration with the Moodle learning management system to seamlessly deliver mathematics content to students.

In 2013, the Town of Turin launched “The Homework School” project, aimed at reducing the drop-out rate of secondary school students. Surveys revealed that students dropping out of school before graduation mainly encountered difficulties in Math, Italian and Foreign Languages. The purpose of the project is to support students between the ages of 14 and 15, when they are close to the completion of compulsory instruction, as an effective way to prevent them from leaving school.

“The Homework School” project is implemented in 40 secondary schools and consists of courses covering Math, Science, Italian Language and Foreign Languages. Students with low marks are grouped in teams of five or six. Trained university students conduct 2-hour classes after school in a peer-to-peer environment. After each class, the student-teacher distributes Maple T.A. assignments. At home, students are able to utilize Maple T.A. for practice tests. With Maple T.A.’s automated grading system and immediate feedback, students identify the topics that are difficult, and spend time on practice tests to understand the concepts better. At the same time, instructors can also verify if a student has mastered a concept or if they need more work on the particular topic.

This project has produced very satisfying results. After their first run in the spring of 2013, University of Turin found that self-confidence amongst the students (on a scale of 1 through 5) jumped from 2.76 to 3.96, interest in the subject rose from 2.95 to 3.83, diligence in homework increased from 2.8 to 3.6, participation in classes went from 3.1 to 3.8 and knowledge of the subject increased from 2.6 to 3.7. Four years later the project is steadily continuing, achieving similar results after every edition. Students who regularly attended the courses demonstrated improvements of about one point out of ten in their Math grades.

“The adoption of technologies that are familiar to students makes them more comfortable,” said Dr. Marina Marchisio, Professor of Geometry, University of Turin. “Using technology not only makes learning easier, but also creates a positive attitude amongst students, which is an essential basis for building competence. We also found that the neutral role of the computer eliminates the obstacles that can sometimes originate from the figure of the teacher, who can be seen as an antagonist by the teenager, thus negatively affecting learning. Maple T.A. has been a great tool in preparing students and building their confidence.”

The goals of the “Problem Posing and Solving” project, supported and financed by the Italian Ministry of Education, include strengthening interest in Computer Science, introducing innovations in the teaching and learning of Mathematics, ensuring continuous training for instructors, adopting a virtual learning environment, and a significant amount of social network activity to share learning materials. Its target audience is upper secondary school teachers of mathematics, computer science and other scientific disciplines.

Teachers first receive training on the use of Maple T.A. within Moodle, and are asked to adopt these tools into their class material. The Maple T.A. teacher training consists of three different steps. First, a three hour lesson introduces them to the basics of Maple T.A. A tutor is then available weekly, for two hours, for web meetings, and offers support at two different levels (basic and advanced) in the use of Maple T.A. Lastly, a forum is used for an asynchronous tutoring experience. Teachers can post their questions, and tutors or colleagues respond with answers.

Teachers use Maple T.A. for assessment purposes in their classes. They use it first to verify the initial competences of their students at the beginning of the course. Through the year they monitor the learning process, preparing assignments and homework. Lastly, they use it for summative assessment in school labs, often using the proctor assignment type in Maple T.A.

The program is growing quickly, and involves 900 active teachers, 1200 teachers in training, 2000 courses, and 18,000 students.

Contact Maplesoft to learn how Maple T.A. can be used in your classroom.