Jonny Zivku, Product Manager at Maplesoft, gave a tour of the web-based tutoring and assessment product Maple T.A. on November 12, 2013. To highlight its features, Zivku drew on content that was tailored specifically for Essential Mathematics for Economics and Business by Teresa Bradley.  This is one of the leading introductory textbooks on mathematics for students of business and economics, and was recently re-issued in its fourth edition by John Wiley & Sons.

Each chapter of the book is structured with an overview, explanation, and applications.  Students who do the exercises can check their answers against solutions given at the end of the book.  The Maple T.A. Question Bank has a module that ties directly into this text.  In the Question Bank, some questions are algorithmic, so values can change but the essential procedure for solving a question remains the same.  That way, a student can practice solving with different values plugged in.

Zivku showed how typical questions would be presented to the student through Maple T.A. The remainder of this posting shows partial screen shots acquired during the demonstration.   There were clear verbal and graph descriptions such as for calculation of area:

The student does the calculation (perhaps with pencil and paper off-line) and then enters the numbers in the slots provided.  A click on the “Verify” button (not shown) will cause Maple T.A. to check the input against its own computed answer.

Students can set up the matrix in a highly intuitive way.  Note the visual cues in the dialog shown here:

The questions appear clear and grammatical, with graphs and equations to assist:

For the most part, Maple T.A. with the Essential Mathematics question bank appears to be an above average product.   A student using it would avoid having to flip to the back of the book after every question.  Furthermore, there is greater depth and variety of problems because the software is algorithmic for some of the questions, so it can recalculate answers to questions posed with new parameters.

The software has an assessment component (not shown here) that will keep track of the questions attempted by each student and the success rate for each type of question. It is up to the instructor whether the students can try, try again with each question or whether they have only a single chance at each question—which could be a daunting prospect.

From my days as a math teaching assistant, I predict Maple T.A. will catch on as a useful tool for educators, who will no doubt appreciate the automatic assessment capabilities, and the fact that new sets of practice questions are easily generated with new parameters.

I also predict Maple T.A.  will catch on with some learners—but not all.  Some students will enjoy the chance to beat their previous scores.  Other students might feel under pressure of constant assessment.  Much will depend on instructors choosing an implementation that encourages the novice learner, yet challenges the seasoned learner. ª

The webinar PDF and Maple document (and free viewer) can be found at:

Disclaimer: The author does not hold stock or any interest of a monetary nature in this software.

The classic text Essential Mathematics for Economics and Business is available through (US):

Also available through (Canada):

Some additional reading on the web-based tutorial program:

Chalmers University of Technology adopts Maple T.A.

Use of Maple T.A. at Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences increases student pass rate by 20 percent

Use of Maple T.A. at the University of Guelph reduces drop-out rates by more than 10%
 University of Waterloo Improves Learning while Saving Money with Maple T.A.