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Short Talks Abstracts

  • Speaker: Kinga Zaczek (Brunel University)

    Contributors: Martin Greenhow (Brunel University)

    Title: Development and integration of computer-aided assessment of discrete mathematics.

    Abstract: This paper presents the development, implementation and evaluation of computer-aided assessment (CAA) in elementary discrete mathematics for Foundations of IT, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science students. It will be shown that discrete mathematics is suitable for objective questions within a CAA setting where random parameters generate thousands of algebraically and pedagogically equivalent realisations, each containing very full feedback. MathML equations and SVG diagrams include randoms so, for example, graphs contain randomized numbers of vertices and edges (although this is constrained to have certain features when testing algorithms).

    Question efficacy is evaluated from seven years' worth of examination scripts demonstrating a positive (although mixed) impact of the formative feedback on students' performances. Module questionnaires show that students value learning from the feedback. Question difficulty and discrimination is used to inform our teaching.

    The database of 2000 questions is available via maths e.g. ( - any browser, PC or Mac) thereby providing a rich source of examples for learning materials and assessments. A search engine and 'Related material' links are included. The teacher's interface ( allows the addition of selected or randomised questions. Creating and scheduling a bespoke test is easy (and free).
  • Speaker: Eabhnat Ní Fhloinn (DCU)

    Contributors: Olivia Gill (UL), Ciarán Mac an Bhaird (NUIM), Ciarán O'Sullivan (IT Tallaght)

    Title: The Irish Mathematics Learning Support Network - Measuring Support Nationwide.

    Abstract: In this talk, we will present an overview of the establishment and subsequent development of the Irish Mathematics Learning Support Network, which was founded in 2009. We will briefly mention the reasons behind the foundation of the network and then expand upon the aims and outcomes of our activities and projects in detail, notably our new mailing list, website and logo. In addition, we will report on the preliminary findings of our largest project to date - a national survey of mathematics learning support throughout the country - and consider what we can learn from these findings and how we can use these to support our work in the coming years.
  • Speaker: Michael Carr (Dublin IT)

    Contributors: Eoin Murphy (Dublin IT), Brian Bowe (Dublin IT) and Eabhnat Ní Fhloinn (DCU)

    Title: Addressing Continuing Mathematical Deficiencies with Advanced Mathematical Diagnostic Testing.

    Abstract: Dublin Institute of Technology offers students a number of different routes into engineering, allowing many non-standard entrants the opportunity to study the discipline provided they fulfil certain criteria. The final aim of many of these students is to achieve an Honours Degree in Engineering, which takes a minimum of four years. Apart from the first year of the course, the other main entry point is at the start of the third year, at which stage students who have performed well in a three-year Ordinary Degree can begin. However, these students have a wide range of mathematical abilities and prior knowledge, and many are missing the basic skills required for completion of a mathematics module at this level.

    It is common practice for students to be diagnostically tested upon entry to third level; however, anecdotally, it appeared that many of the mathematical issues uncovered at that point had not been rectified during the students' subsequent studies. In an attempt to quantify the problem, it was decided to pilot an Advanced Maths Diagnostic Test which covered many of the key concepts from the early years of Engineering Mathematics. A pass-mark of 90% was set in this assessment. 159 third-year students studying for an Honours Engineering degree were tested during the pilot study, only two of whom achieved the pass mark on the first sitting. To encourage the other students to revise this crucial material, multiple re-sit opportunities were provided, and a weighting of 10% of the continuous assessment mark for the mathematics module was given to the diagnostic test. Online resources and special classes covering the relevant material were also provided, with the result that 129 of the 159 students reached the necessary threshold by the end of the semester.

    In this paper, we outline the questions covered by the Advanced Maths Diagnostic Test and provide a full analysis of the results of the tests.
  • Speaker: James Reilly (IT Tallaght)

    Title: Enhancing Student Engagement in Applied Statistics.

    Abstract: Student engagement in Applied Statistics can be enhanced by doing practical exercises, collaborating with fellow students, creating and executing original experimental designs, judging the work of others, and presenting in oral as well as written forms. These activities, as well as being valuable in their own right, also tend to produce an atmosphere that is conducive to learning, and foster an approach that is application-oriented. This talk will outline and illustrate these approaches.
  • Speaker: Michael Brennan (Cork IT)

    Title: The Best Card Trick Ever.

    Abstract: The study of games in mathematics provides a fruitful experience both for the teacher and the student. In particular card tricks are an entertaining way to engage students in mathematics. Discrete mathematical concepts like the Pigeonhole Principle can take on a fun meaning when applied to a card trick. In this talk we demonstrate a five card trick and then carefully explore the mathematics behind the card trick.
  • Speaker: Gráinne Burke (NUIM)

    Contributors: Ciarán Mac an Bhaird (NUIM), Ann O'Shea (NUIM)

    Title: Monitoring Students' Engagement with Mathematics at Third Level
    Abstract: In this talk we will give an overview of a monitoring scheme which was set up in the 2010-11 academic year by the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. We monitored first year students' submission of assignments, their attendance at tutorials and their engagement with an online mathematics proficiency course. Students who failed to engage appropriately were contacted by the department. The contact was initially by email, but then progressed to a letter from the head of department, and onto a meeting with a member of staff for students who continued with their pattern of non-engagement. We will discuss the background to this scheme, in particular why we chose to introduce a monitoring scheme for students in first year service mathematics and how the monitoring project operated. We will look at the effectiveness of the scheme by analysing its impact on students' levels and quality of engagement. In particular we will present evidence that the monitoring scheme has significantly increased levels of engagement and that it can have a positive impact on the module grades of students who react to it. Finally we will discuss the logistics of setting up such a scheme, which now plays an important role in our support and retention of incoming first year service mathematics students.
  • Speaker: Joan Cleary (IT Tralee)

    Title: Statistics Support for Undergraduate Projects.

    Abstract: The presentation will demonstrate learning objects produced as part of a NDLR project. They were designed to be references/refreshers for students who have studied statistics and subsequently need to conduct data analysis as part of their major project. Other lecturers who supervise these students have found the material very helpful. They include

    Types of data?

    When is a data set normal?

    Hypothesis testing?

    What test to use?

    Each learning object summarizes the topic and then shows how to do it in SPSS.
  • Speaker: Peter Samuels (Birmingham City University)

    Title: An innovative approach to mathematics education using real and virtual robotics at the second to third level transition.

    Abstract: Recent initiatives in several developed countries to improve the supply of numerate graduates have tended to focus on treating symptoms rather than underlying causes. Research indicates the importance of student engagement and motivation with mathematics at the second to third level transition. Robotic systems are commonly used with younger students to provide a rich environment for designing and solving problems creatively. They have also been used at the third level to motivate and embed subject specific skills in engineering and computing, and to develop team-working and communication skills. GeoGebra is a powerful mathematical environment for facilitating the combined geometric and symbolic construction and representation of mathematical objects. However, in itself it lacks the strong real world connection achievable through the manipulation of physical objects.

    This presentation promotes the combined use of GeoGebra with robotic systems to motivate mathematics learning at the second to third level transition. The potential of GeoGebra to create robotic animations is described. The pedagogic approach used in extended robotic classes is discussed. The use of suitable evaluation criteria to steer activity towards mathematical learning is explored. Current experiences with this approach at the second level are reported and evaluated. Future plans are discussed.
  • Speaker: Paul Robinson (IT Tallaght)

    Title: GeoGebra and 3D Geometry for Engineers.

    Abstract: A series of computer labs in GeoGebra are presented which are designed to help engineering students to visualize some aspects of basic geometry in 3D.
    In these labs the students

    - Create a 3D axis frame from scratch which can be rotated
    - Place points, lines, curves and surfaces within the frame
    - Create (animated) tangent vectors to curves and tangent planes to surfaces
    - Create 'solid' figures using dot products to hide non-visible faces during rotation
    - Visualize dot product through the illumination of surfaces

    Each lab is a self contained word document and contains further exercises for the student.
  • Speaker: Séamus Knox (Department of Education)

    Title: Pilot Study on Problem solving in Junior Cycle.

    Abstract: The presentation will consider a recent pilot project involving second-year students from three second-level schools in the midlands. It will focus on the project design and delivery and the use of GeoGebra in enabling the participants to engage in research, exploration and hypothesis testing.