My name is Andrew and I’m the Lead Content Developer here at Mathspace. I am very excited to take you through the big changes that are coming your way!
Throughout this year the Content Team has embarked on the biggest overhaul of our 7-10 content in the history of Mathspace. In direct response to the feedback we received from teachers and students, together with our years of experience in delivering education online, we have completely revised and re-implemented the Mathspace experience for our largest audience of teachers and students.
In this post I'll take us through the various aspects of our process - how we reorganise a course, how we rewrite questions in response to feedback, the way we dealt with geometry, the changes we made to our lessons, and the new visual design system - before sharing our choice of the funniest feedback we received at the end.
Mathspace has launched its Free PD Webinar series, and I will be presenting the 2020 editions during its second session. If you would like to see and hear me talk through the new editions, join me at 3:30pm (AEST) on 31/07/2019 - sign up using this link.
Let's get started!
Previous versions of Mathspace have had a very fine-grained structure. Sets consisted of between 8 and 12 questions that targeted a specific skill. This organisation led to difficulties in finding content, and made the prospect of piecing together a task quite time-intensive. Our goal in the new edition is to present each subtopic as a predictable amount of work (between 1 and 2 class periods), and group the subtopics in a more thematic way.
Overall the content in year 7 is in fewer Topics (20 → 13) and far fewer subtopics (384 → 93). As a result each set is typically longer than it used to be, and you may also have noticed the introduction of reference numbering. We hope this makes it much easier for you to find what you're looking for.
This reorganisation was drafted at a high level before the next, most critical stage of the process.
Reading feedback and redrafting questions
The content team receives feedback from both students and teachers, quite a lot of it in fact - a typical school week sees 10,000 reports, climbing towards 20,000 during more busy periods. Obviously a team of six content developers can’t read every piece of feedback as it comes in!
We do take the time to read and personally respond to any feedback sent by a teacher, and student feedback is aggregated to help us find broken content so we can fix it immediately. But most of the time student feedback sits unread for a few months at least.
It is also true that student feedback is probably the most highly-valued resources available to us on the content team, and every piece of feedback is read by us at some point.
So, how does it work?
Let’s look at an example, where we are creating the new subtopic 1.03 Checking reasonableness. Here is an existing question in this year’s edition of Mathspace:
The answer in our system is “No”, and fewer than 30% of students agreed. Here is some of the feedback we received (as it appears on our end) for this question:
ANSWER_INCORRECT: I put “yes” and it was rong??
CONFUSING_QUESTION: give me back my marks
ANSWER_INCORRECT: this is not reasonable
ANSWER_INCORRECT: this game so trash i got it wrong fix youre game people u suck
UNHELPFUL_HINT: i still dont get it
ANSWER_INCORRECT: CORRECT ANSWER IS YES
HINT_WITH_MISTAKES: Answer is Yes, result is reasonable
This list is heavily curated, gentle reader. It is an occupational hazard for all teachers that their work is continuously reviewed by highschoolers, but throw a feeling of anonymity in the mix and… well… students do love to tell you exactly how they feel. Please don't worry for us - we have thick skins, we know all the memes, and genuinely want to know when students are frustrated.
So, what does this feedback tell us on the Content Team? Considering the question’s context, we draw the following conclusions:
- The question is ambiguous, frustrating, and confusing
- The question effectively asks “is this calculation correct?” and could be rephrased
- Students believed they were being asked about estimation rather than accuracy
- The hint was not helpful
Now there are plenty of questions in Mathspace where students learn to perform subtraction, and so we took steps to distill the notion of reasonableness here in this context.
This is the question as it appears in the 2020 edition:
The answer is now “Yes”, and specifically targets the skills of estimation and rounding (rather than strict arithmetic) and appeals to those strategies in the hints (rather than the equation-level thinking required in the first iteration).
There are 2,144 questions in the year 7, 2020 edition, and this level of consideration and care was given to the creation of each and every one.
Overall, I can confidently say that the value in receiving feedback is as important to us as it is to our student users, and we hope you encourage your students to always report any issue they come across in Mathspace so we can continue to improve.
Case study: Geometry
Over the years we have learned that schools use our geometry content the least, and that the students and teachers who do use it were more frustrated and learning less effectively than they were in other topics. Each topic received a lot of attention, but we think the difference will be most obvious here.
Let’s take a look at an example in the current edition:
Our feedback helped us understand the following:
- Selecting reasons is very difficult for students
- Preventing students from advancing when they enter the correct answer (being told to “show more working”) is a very frustrating experience
- Approximate angle sizing is important (that angle at the top is definitely larger than a right angle)
- Students miss the word “kite” in the instructions and get lost
And here is the new version:
The most important feature I want to highlight here is that the characteristics of a kite are presented to the student, rather than it being written down in words. We invite the student to notice that it is a kite, and engage their reasoning implicitly to be able to proceed. Any student who can determine this answer quickly can enter the final answer without being forced to show working or state reasons - we can leave that to later years!
This was just one example of the changes to geometry. I encourage anyone who has struggled with Mathspace’s treatment of the topic to check out this new implementation and let us know what you think.
Every textbook has lesson content, and Mathspace is no exception. We aim to provide a predictable and reliable reference resource for students and their teachers. Each lesson in the 2020 edition is written to a basic formula:
Explore - Summarise - Watch a master - Practice
Here are some excerpts:
2.03 Adding and subtracting fractions
6.03 Writing rules for relationships
10.08 Volume of rectangular prisms
Explore for yourself - and let us know which ones you and your students like the best.
We spent considerable time developing a new design language to present our visual assets. We want to ensure that our diagrams are accessible, accurate, and engaging.
I’ll let the pictures speak a thousand words!
The 2020 editions of the year 7 content are complete and ready for use in your class. While I’ve done my best to highlight the amazing efforts of the Content Team, we have only scratched the surface of the work we’ve done to ensure our content is of the highest quality - and more like what you and your students want to see.
We are hard at work on years 8 through 10, and want to hear from you! Please take a moment to complete this feedback form to let us know what you think of the year 7 content. Alternatively, you can get in touch with us through the help center or by reporting an issue, as always.
Bonus: Our favourite feedback
We seriously do read every piece of feedback sent to us. Here are some of our favourites from year 7 students from the past year.
8x5 = 50, i'm typing 50 but it keeps on saying it is wrong!!!
Not sure we can fix your problem :(
Or I have is of the Rogan?
We tried to guess what you meant, but autocorrect was probably doing the same
it is carrect
No, it is nat :(
i am dis custard
I GOT IT WRONG AND IM ANGY
Sorry to hear that Angy :(
im reporting you to spider-putin
Was Putin bitten by a radioactive spider, or a spider bitten by a radioactive Putin?
IT SAYS THAT I AM WRONG BUT I KNOW THAT I AM RIGHT BECAUSE I AM SMART!!!!!!!
Self-confidence is half the battle! But only half… ;)
You guys stuffed up big time buddy I'll get my dad to tell Kim Jin on
Friends in high (and remote) places!
math space is the reason I didn't get a pop sickle
We are sorry to hear that :(
Please actually give advice you chicken nuggets
We know all about the chicken nuggets meme. Well played, kids. Well played.
my sister texted it by accident and she texted it sorry
I accidentally typed in 150 and pressed enter cause i went with the SBS News beat while the question was loading and it entered the answer.:(
We’ve all been there
my friend told me the wrong answer twice. he is not my friend anymore
Sounds like you made the right choice!
Thanks for the feedback, everyone - I'll share our favourites from the 8-10 project sometime next year.