Formula Editors and Handwriting in Mathematical E-Learning

Formula Editors and Handwriting in Mathematical E-Learning

Morten Misfeldt (The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, Denmark) and Anders Sanne (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-875-0.ch017
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Teaching and learning mathematics at university level is increasingly being supported by Learning Management Systems. In this chapter, we report from the e-learning initiative, DELTA, and in doing so we aim to describe how formulas, drawings, and other mathematical representations influence student communication. We describe a practice that combines handwriting and discussion forums facilitated by a Learning Management System (LMS). We have experienced lack of student activity in the discussion forums and introducing a new LMS (Moodle) with improved formula editor capabilities into the environment, does not seem to considerably improve the situation, whereas a scanner-based handwritten communication seems to successfully support the assignment communication between the students and the teacher.
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When teaching mathematics fully online, there are a number of aspects of mathematical communication that is worth considering. Firstly, the extent to which the employed interface (i.e. keyboard and mouse) and programs support or hinder mathematical communication. Some of the formulas, drawings and other types of representations are more difficult to create using a computer than it is to write them by hand. Secondly, technological challenges to mathematical notation could prompt students to describe mathematics in words rather than in the established mathematical notation or in other ways affect the types of representations used in mathematical work. Hence, we find it relevant to consider the implications of the multimodal (i.e. uses many types of representations) nature of mathematical text, and how this relates to learning and communication.

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