Rich interactive assessment of STEM subjects with Numbas

Christian Lawson-Perfect
Newcastle University

JISC Connect More 2024


An open-source e-assessment system designed for mathematical subjects.

Developed at Newcastle University since 2011.

Used around the world.

Key features

Question types

Math notation
Prompt text says 'differentiate the following function: f(x) = minus 6 x squared minus 7 x minus 10'. An input box contains 'minus 12 x minus 7', and is followed by a rendering in mathematical notation and a green tick
Prompt text says 'write 1234.567 in continental European style. An input box contains '1.234,567' and is followed by a green tick.
Prompt text says 'write a 3 × 3 identity matrix. Beneath are inputs labelled 'rows' and 'columns', and then a grid of inputs containing the entries of a 3×3 identity matrix, followed by a green tick.

Question types

Multiple choice
Prompt text says 'Tick each mammal'. Beneath are checkboxes labelled 'sparrow', 'shark', 'dog' (ticked) and 'cat' (ticked)', followed by a green tick. Prompt text says 'Select pairs of numbers that add up to 4. Beneath is a grid of checkboxes; the upper triangle is empty. The columns and rows are both labelled 1,2,3. 1,3 and 2,2 are ticked. The grid is followed by a green tick.
Short text
Prompt text says 'Write a headline in title case'. An input box contains 'Numbas Marks Answer Correctly', followed by a green tick.
Make your own
Prompt says 'Convert 240cm to metres'. An input box contains '2.4m', followed by text 'Include units in your answer' and a green tick.

Question types

Prompt says 'Define a function called count_a which counts the number of times the letter 'a' appears in a string.' Beneath is a code editor containing Python code, followed by a green tick.
Prompt text says 'Before making a purchase, you always fill in a product fact sheet. Fill in the product fact sheet for the Autocomb Pro, using the information above'. Beneath is a spreadsheet interface with coloured areas headed 'Product name', 'Price', 'Running costs', 'Dimensions' and 'Reviews'. Numbers and text have been entered in the cells next to the headings. The spreadsheet is followed by a green tick.

Interactive diagrams


Modes of use

A fixed list of questions.
Student picks which questions they want to try.
Adapts to student's performance.
Student picks their own path through an activity.

How we use it

How to do it
The Numbas editor


Source code

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