PROBLEM SOLVING IN MATHEMATICS THROUGH A WIKI
Universidad de Oviedo (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
The main objective of this work is the development through a wiki of problem solving tasks in Mathematics on a group work basis. The wikis are a suitable medium to prepare group works as an alternative to more traditional ways of presenting works in paper or in a file (.doc, .pdf, etc.). The wikis also allow to develop cooperative learning habits.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORK
Since we are dealing with Mathematical problems, it is necessary that all sort of mathematical expressions can be introduced in the wiki. The builtin wiki module of the moodle elearning software allows the inclusion of formulae with LaTeX syntax, but we found it too buggy. Instead, we chose to use the free Mediawiki software, on which the famous Wikipedia is based.
The features of Mediawiki can be extended by means of a big number of add-ons made by the user community. In particular, the add-on named wikitex allows to insert in the wiki not only mathematical expressions (with LaTeX syntax), but also graphics, chess matches, several kinds of diagrams, etc.
Mediawiki was initially written with the aim of collaboration without restrictions, so that any user from anywhere could contribute.
Then, Mediawiki does not have natively a system to protect single pages, which is something we needed in order to ensure that the work of each group was isolated from the rest of groups. This problem was overcome by making a data base to set up the user's privileges on the pages used for teaching purposes.
By means of the history associated to every page of the wiki, the teacher can know in detail the contribution of each member of the group to the proposed work. This allows to measure the collaboration inside the group. From the students point of view, they can organized their work in the wiki without being physically in a meeting. The only need to have a computer connected to Internet.
The activity was carried out the second four-month period of the last academic year in a Linear Algebra course. Arranged in groups of three or four people, the students had to solve a number of exercises in the wiki. Since most of the students had little or no knowledge about LaTeX to create mathematical formulae, an exhaustive LaTeX tutorial was made in the wiki itself.
The assessment of the activity was done on a rubric basis. Several aspects were considered and each one contributed with a certain weight to the final mark. At the end of the four-month period, the students had to defend their work orally.
We gave this part great importance. We also wanted to know the students' opinion about the activity so we made an opinion poll.
We have confirmed the advantages of working with a wiki against more traditional ways of group work. The teacher can track the students' progresses any time.
Keywords: wikis, mediawiki, problem solving, mathematics, group work, e-learning.