The Numbas Blog

Teaching award for Numbas user John Dickson

Two presenters stood on a stage in front of a sign reading "Forth Valley College Staff Awards 2021"

Lecturer at Forth Valley College, John Dickson, won an FVC Staff Award last year for his use of Numbas in mathematics courses.

John says this about the award:

I started using Numbas as a means of formative assessment around five years ago which worked really well as a tool for allowing students to develop their skills ahead of a summative assessment. The experience of learning how to write Numbas questions has proved invaluable since the Covid -19 pandemic began and remote learning became necessary.

The maths department needed a method of ensuring that any summative assessments conducted in a remote setting were reliable, secure, maintained a standard of integrity and were able to be set at the correct level for the variety of courses we deliver. Using Numbas to deliver these assessments allowed us to do this. By developing assessments that were randomised for every student meant we could be confident that it was their own work and creating these bespoke assessments ensured they were set at the correct level. Developing these assessments in a short time scale did have some challenges along the way but we have now developed a fairly standardised system of assessing in this manner.

Having developed assessments using Numbas, I believe that there is a strong case for continued use of e-assessments of this type in assessing mathematics in the post pandemic world. There are many ways in which assessments of this nature are superior to entirely paper based assessment and I hope that we will be using Numbas to allow our students to develop their mathematical skills and knowledge in future years.

We’re keen to hear about other awards Numbas has contributed to. If your use of Numbas was cited in any form of formal recognition, please tell us all about it!

Numbas LTI provider v3.0

We’ve just released the next major version of the Numbas LTI provider: v3.0.

The main impetus for moving to a new major version was to get up to date with the third-party libraries that the LTI provider relies on; there were a few big changes in the way they worked, so working with the latest versions involved rewriting a lot of code.

However, I’ve also taken the opportunity to add a few new features, and to work through a lot of bug reports and interface improvements in the issue tracker.

We’ve been running v3.0 here at Newcastle for a couple of months, and it’s proved significantly more reliable than v2.

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Development update: November 2021

Here’s an update on Numbas development, covering July to November 2021.

I’ve been working on a big update to the Numbas LTI provider, which is pretty much ready but I’d like to test on a few different systems before recommending everyone upgrades.

Other notable additions recently include autocompletion in the editor when writing JME expressions, and variables are automatically added to the Variables tab after you write a reference to them anywhere in the question. These changes should make writing questions quite a bit easier, especially for new authors!

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Improvements to the JSXGraph extension

Last week was the second International JSXGraph Conference. Numbas has had an extension to integrate JSXGraph for over 10 years, since the very start, but I haven’t done much with it, so I submitted a talk proposal to pressure myself into doing something.

That tactic worked – as the conference approached I spent a few days working on the extension, adding the ability to use JSXGraph diagrams in marking, just like you can with the GeoGebra extension.

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Help wanted: The Organising Numbas Project

In the coming year, I’m going to focus less on developing new features in Numbas, and more on organising the content we’ve already got.

At the moment, the database of content in the Numbas editor at numbas.mathcentre.ac.uk contains a lot of stuff, but it’s hard to search, and it’s particularly hard to find good-quality material.

We’d like to improve this, by developing some new tools, and by applying more effort to moderation. Our goal is to start and maintain a library of good-quality, well-organised Numbas questions and exams available for everyone to reuse.

I’ve collected some ideas on how we might do this in a document. Please add your own comments to it.

We’re looking for anyone interested in helping with this project. Your contribution could be:

  • Time spent moderating – ad hoc, or committing to a number of hours per year 
  • Content for the library 
  • Expertise from previous similar projects

As a first step, I’m running a meeting on August 31st, open to anyone interested in helping. To cover as many time zones as possible, the meeting will run twice: first at 09:00-10:00 BST (GMT+1), and then at 15:00-16:00.

The meeting will take place over Zoom. If you’d like to attend, please fill in this registration form.

Numbas talks at EAMS 2021

This year’s edition of EAMS, the international conference on E-Assessment in Mathematical Sciences, has just finished.

There were a few talks about Numbas.

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Numbas v6.0

It’s finally Summer, so it’s time for a new major version of Numbas. This year I’ve been working on diagnostic testing, and other adaptive assessments. There are also some new question-level features, improved accessibility, and some new features in the LTI tool.

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Numbas open office hours

We’ve decided to start running weekly “open office” hours each Thursday. You can make an appointment to talk with the lead developer of Numbas, Christian Lawson-Perfect, about anything to do with Numbas.

Meetings will normally take place over Zoom, unless you specify a different method.

You could get help writing questions, integrating Numbas with your VLE, or have a more wide-ranging chat about using Numbas.

To make an appointment, use the booking form.