The Numbas Blog

Programme of talks released for international EAMS 2018 Conference 

EAMS logo

The programme for the E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences (EAMS) conference has been released, with speakers from across the globe presenting the latest developments in the field and offering a unique opportunity to get hands-on with maths e-assessment systems, whether you are a user, a developer, or just interested! The conference takes place over 3 days at Newcastle University, between 28th and 30th August.

Introduction to Numbas workshops – June 2018

We’re running Numbas workshops this month in Durham and Huddersfield:

  • Monday 18th June, 10am-4pm, Durham University.
  • Thursday 21st June, 10am-4pm, Huddersfield University.

The workshops are a hands-on introduction to Numbas, including getting started on the Numbas mathcentre editor, selecting questions to make tests, and writing your own questions.

The workshops are free to attend and will include lunch. There are limited places available; if you would like to book a spot, please contact Chris Graham ( before June 13th.

Numbas Workshop

Out now: Numbas v3.0, the marking algorithms rewrite

Today we’ve released Numbas v3.0. It’s the thing I’m second-most proud of producing in the last year (my daughter was born last October).

The marking code at the heart of Numbas has been completely rewritten, to make it much easier for question authors to change how students’ answers are marked. This has also allowed the introduction of custom part types, to make it easier to use and reuse different marking algorithms.

Announcing the EAMS conference 2018

EAMS logo

The international conference on E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences (EAMS) is a three-day academic conference organised by Newcastle University taking place 28th – 30th August 2018.

Building on the success of EAMS 2016, the conference aims to bring together researchers and practitioners with an interest in e-assessment for mathematics and the sciences, with an emphasis on enabling attendees to have a go at creating material, and getting an opportunity to share expertise directly. It will consist of a mix of presentations of new techniques, and pedagogic research, as well as live demos and workshops where you can get hands-on with leading e-assessment software.

Photo of EAMS 2016 attendees during a hands-on computer lab session

Photo of the audience during a talk at EAMS 2016

Over three days, EAMS 2018 will comprise a mix of talks and hands-on activities:

  • Developer updates from the people responsible for popular mathematical e-assessment systems, detailing the latest features.
  • Lightning talks on a variety of topics to do with e-assessment in mathematical disciplines.
  • Hands-on workshops led by experts in a variety of e-assessment systems.
  • Live demos led by experts in the field.
  • Code sprints with the aim of adding features to systems, writing documentation, or creating material on a particular topic.

Compared to EAMS 2016, the emphasis this time is much more on enabling attendees to have a go at creating material, and getting an opportunity to share expertise directly.

The call for talk and workshop proposals is currently open. If you have some research or an innovative technique related to mathematical e-assessment that you would like to present, EAMS 2018 is the perfect venue. The deadline for talk proposals is May 31st.

The conference fee is only £75 and includes a conference dinner. You can find out more about EAMS, as well as the forms to register for the conference and propose a talk, at the conference website,

Material for students making the transition to university

This Summer we’ve supervised a group of student interns creating a bank of Numbas questions to support students making the transition from school to university. The genus of the project was the realisation that many degree courses around the university require a level of mathematical ability that students don’t expect when they apply, and might have lost in the years since GCSE. We aimed to create a bank of practice material that students can be directed to, following diagnostic tests or visits to our maths support service at the start of the academic year.

Bradley, Lauren, Stanislav, Aiden, Elliott and Hannah have done a sterling job, creating over 150 questions in six weeks, covering topics mainly at the English GCSE level (exams taken at age 16, and many students’ last encounter with formal maths).

Free “Introduction to Numbas” workshop at Bath, 31st August 2017

The sigma network is hosting a free workshop hosted by the Mathematics Resource Centre, University of Bath on Thursday 31st August, 10:30-16:30.

This event will provide:

  • a hands-on introduction to Numbas, including logging on to the mathcentre editor, selecting questions to make tests, and writing your own questions.
  • a resource swap shop. Opportunity for all delegates to share information on a resource they use.
  • information about using Numbas to fill the gaps in mathcentre.

There’s more information on the event’s page on the sigma website.

Why we invented Numbas

Bill Foster was director of the e-learning unit at Newcastle University until his retirement in 2016. In this post he tells the story of how Numbas came to be developed under his guidance.

Numbas is the latest in a long line of assessments systems: it is the spiritual successor at Newcastle to the i-assess assessment system which itself was based on the CALM system developed in the late 1980s.

In the following I will cover the implementation of CALM at Brunel University (1991/2), and at Newcastle University the implementation of i-assess (2006) followed by the development and implementation of Numbas (2012). 

Question highlight: Heating/phase change by Tom Stallard

In this series of posts, we’re highlighting questions we’ve found on the public Numbas editor which do something innovative or are of particularly high quality.

This question by Dr. Tom Stallard of the University of Leicester asks students to interpret a graph showing the temperature of a material as it is heated. The graph is dynamically generated using the JSXGraph extension, and a table shows some of the physical properties of the material.

While quite a simple question pedagogically, I like how the dynamic graph in this question displays information to the student in an intuitive format.

We asked Tom how he uses Numbas in his teaching:

I am an Associate Professor of Planetary Astronomy at Leicester. I use Numbas for the College of Science and Engineering Foundation Year, teaching the module Heat and Energy.  I use Numbas both as a teaching aid, providing randomised questions at the end of each lecture that the students can use to practice with as the course continues, as well as a form of continuous assessment, with a set of randomised questions every two weeks that the students can re-take to a passing grade.  Because the students use these questions extensively, I make sure to include a broader range of randomisation, so that not only the specific numbers, but the aims and content of the questions can change each time the question is asked.

Thanks to Tom for releasing this question under a CC-BY licence, so others can reuse this question freely!

Try this question now, on the Numbas editor, or have a look at the rest of Tom’s freely-available content.


Numbas features full documentation which is always in line with the most recent version.

Numbas Documentation