Christian Lawson-Perfect

HESTEM project to put Numbas exams and editor on mathcentre

Over the Summer we had a project, funded through HESTEM, to put Numbas material and the new editor on Loughborough University’s excellent mathcentre site.

We’ve run quite a bit behind schedule for various reasons but we now have some material on the site for students to use, and a fully functional question editor for teachers, stocked up with over 300 questions from our database developed over the past few years here at Newcastle.

The tests for students are available under the “Test Yourself” header for a few topics. For example, this test on completing the square allows students to try randomly generated questions on the same subject over and over until they feel happy with it. This is exactly the kind of thing e-assessment is good at: repetitive practice at basic skills at the student’s pace.

The Numbas editor is a much bigger deal. It’s online at It allows a few levels of interaction:

  • Anyone can browse the database of questions and tests on the site, and download packages for uploading to VLEs or wherever.
  • If you create an account on the site, you can select questions to make into exams suited for your particular needs, or…
  • You can write your own questions, using the same tools we use to make our highly successful in-course assessments.

We’re still working on the documentation, and the interface is still being tweaked, but we think that the material and tools we’re making available will be of real use to both students and teachers. If you’ve got any questions, please write a comment here or send an email to

Numbas in operation in 2012

Bill has written this report about how Numbas is being used this year for a University committee. I thought it was worth sharing.

School of Maths & Stats

Numbas will be used for all first year modules and service teaching in Maths & Stats in 2012/2013. This is in formative mode with an in-course assessment component.  Will be extended to all second year modules in 2013/2014. Note that presently this is the most extensive use of formative e-assessment in UK HE and is based on our original award winning use of formative e-assessment.

Transfer to other Universities

Two universities are transferring the technology from Newcastle as part of an HE STEM project: Chemistry at Bradford and Maths at Kingston. This will be finished by August 2012.

Birmingham University are talking to us in early April about using Numbas in their foundation courses and in their maths support system.


There is now a new project starting April 2012 to embed Numbas in mathcentre.

OER and Numbas

We are running an HEA/JISC workshop on preparing OER materials using Numbas on April 10.

This is free and open to all.


We are developing new materials for Maths-Aid using Numbas as part of e-learning and support packages. Also preparing materials and resources (eg DVDs) for revision.

Using Numbas with Blackboard

With version 9.1 SP6, Blackboard finally fixed their SCORM player. That means that you can upload Numbas exams to Blackboard and it will save students’ grades into the Grade Center, just like any other assignment. Earlier versions claimed to support SCORM, but the implementation was quite broken.

In this post I’ll walk you through the process of putting a Numbas exam on Blackboard. Read the rest

Vector and matrix support

I’ve just added support for matrices and vectors to Numbas’ JME system. You can now do some very simple linear algebra calculations. This is mainly useful for generating question statements.

For more information, have a look at the relevant commit message.

Interactive revision problems for engineers

Maths-Aid at Newcastle University commissioned some worksheets to help first-year engineering students with commonly-requested topics, so we’ve been making some quick revision tests with Numbas to go with them.

So far we have one test online, to go with the simple second-order ODE worksheet. Because a Numbas test is just HTML, we could just upload the test to our FTP and it worked without having to do any fiddling with servers or asking for help from an admin. The turnaround from deciding to make the test to having it online and working was just a few hours.

Numbas v1.4

I’ve just released v1.4 of Numbas on Github. I increase the version number whenever there are significant additions to the system, and there are loads this time.

Here’s what’s changed since v1.3: Read the rest

Another Numbas presentation

I gave another presentation about Numbas last week at the e-Assessment Scotland conference in Dundee. I revised my old slides and created a better demo exam, so I thought I’d better link to them from here. I’m thinking about recording a screencast of how to use Numbas – would that interest anybody?

Anyway, those slides – click here.

My Numbas presentation

I’ve had to give a few presentations about Numbas at various places in the past month, so I wrote a quick set of slides. I’ve just uploaded it here.

I created the slideshow using Slidy, which is much better at using HTML for slideshows than my attempt.

Numbas is now properly open-source

Numbas, my web-based e-assessment system, is now available under an Apache 2.0 licence at github. That means it’s finally properly open-source, and anyone can do whatever they like with it.