Making Math Education Global: Wiris Quizzes Speaks Your Language

Greg Bates
Jun. 13 2012, 10:00AM EDT

Wiris (pronounced Wyrees) from Barcelona has introduced Quizzes, an API to help you create mathematical tests and evaluate student answers. Along with its Editor and Cas (an advanced online calculator), Quizzes is part of the Wiris suite that can be plugged into a learning management system. LMS partners include Moodlerooms (used by Roanoke College and the California State University system) and Fireflysolutions.

Based on Java, Quizzes is cross-platform and cross-OS. It can be easily integrated into LMS, CMS and HTML editors including Wordpress and Joomla.

Quiz example:

Wiris saves teachers time and aids students by adding random variables, providing 2D and 3D graphical evaluations, by syntactically checking student answers (and advising them not to post until it they are syntactically complete), and by automatically evaluating answers.

As Wiris states, "The evaluation checks for mathematically equivalent answers to the expected, but not exactly the expected solution. ...This can only be achieved via a calculation engine as WIRIS."

Here's why that matters. Quizzes transcends a key limitation of most math tests: the multiple choice format. For decades, teachers have relied on multiple choice so that they don't have to evaluate the many possible answers that could be correct.

To cite a simple example, the answer to 1/4 + 1/4 is 1/2. But the student might write 2/4. Wiris evaluates the mathematical response and will score either answer, 1/2 or 2/4, as correct. According to Wiris, having the ability to go beyond multiple choice "increases your power when it comes to assessment" of your student.

It can also handle abstract questions such as: Type in a real number that is not a rational number. Since the set of correct answers is infinite, you need a mathematical engine to handle evaluating the answer--like the one Wiris provides.

Or a question can ask for a data type like: name a prime number--any prime number. Or it can request a third-degree polynomial. Wiris will check that the answer matches the requested data type.

While accepting a range of correct answers can be useful, teachers can also control the format of the answer required of the student, requesting that they simplify it (thereby ruling out 2/4 as an acceptable answer, if the want to) or factorize it, for example. They can also control whether a student has access to a calculation engine and formula editor in creating their answers.

[caption id="attachment_30207" align="aligncenter" width="455" caption="The Wiris editor"]Wiris editor[/caption]

But what math teacher has time to create her own problems--who wants to create their own content? To address this issue, Wiris provides a library of over 2,000 problems created by users. They are available free under a creative commons license.

What's cool: The problems were created in a variety languages; Wiris will translate them into the language you are teaching in. The range is remarkable, covering some 6 languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Catalan so far.

Wiris is available on an annual subscription model to institutions that can be free if the institution agrees to make its own questions database available to others through the Wiris library.

Wiris is headed by Ramon Eixarch, who along with several other key people in the organization came out of Barcelona Tech.

Greg Bates A writer for Programmableweb since 2012, Greg is a freelance writer and a maniacal editor of dissertations and term papers. - Follow me on Google+

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