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Re: Test taking and MathML

From: Manolis Mavrikis <m.mavrikis@ed.ac.uk>
Date: Mon, 26 Sep 2005 12:20:55 +0100
Message-ID: <4337D997.6030009@ed.ac.uk>
To: www-math@w3.org
CC: Neil Soiffer <neils@dessci.com>, sangwinc@for.mat.bham.ac.uk

    Indeed, this issue has been in our interest for quite a while. 
Whether employing MathML or OpenMath we always needed a way to mark 
which elements of an equation or a formula we would like to leave empty 
during an interactive exercise. The problem was bypassed by assigning 
IDs to the element which we wanted to leave blank. Then in several 
formats for interactive exercises where we needed this capability (for 
example MathQTI -an information model based on QTI - or in the language 
of two -as far as I know- web based systems WaLLiS and ActiveMath)  
appropriate elements were employed to specify that we would like the 
specific element to be blank. For example in the language format of 
WaLLiS one could writes

    <cn id="replaceme">3</cn>

and later in the file when response elements are mapped there is this 

    <blank type="*num*" for="*replaceme*" id="*response1*" 
max_chars="*3*" />

The approach is more or less similar in other formats like MathQTI or 
ActiveMath and was first described here:
in some previous work that Alberto González Palomo and me did a while 
ago. More links and info can be found  here: 

One of the advantages of this approach is that the MathML representation 
of the mathematical expression does not have to be changed. It can be 
copied-pasted from an editor and the author of the interactive exercise 
has the simple task of assigning IDs to the elements that she wants to 
substitute and leave as blanks.

So the problem of specifying what we need to be blank is not so 
significant as assigning IDs is an acceptable approach in XML. What is 
problematic for us is to have an interoperable way of presenting this to 
the user using presentation MathML. So far our engines could transform 
the format described above to output something invalid the rendering of 
which worked (prob by accident) only in Mozilla-like layout engines like 
the following:

  <mrow><input xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" type="text" size="2" name="std_form_1" id="std_form_1" /></mrow>

As you understand, in cases where our users were using other browsers or 
renders this didn't work and we had to convert our output to HTML that 
included the input elements or to resort to other work-arounds.

Therefore, it would be useful to allow such input elements in 
presentation MathML (with xform or other ways) in as a clean way as 
possible. In terms of requirements it turns out that the possible inputs 
that we needed so far are (obviously) text input but also drop down 
boxes (these could be used inside an equation to let the student choose, 
for instance, the sign of a coefficient). I don't think that other input 
methods (like radiobuttons) could be possibly incorporated inside a 
mathematical expression as it would look awkward.

    I hope this helps...

Manolis Mavrikis
School of Mathematics
The University of Edinburgh
6313 JCMB, Kings Buildings,
Mayfield Road,
EH9 3JZ, Edinburgh,


W Naylor wrote:

>Hi Neil,
>I believe that this issue of test taking markup is an area that the CAA 
>(Computer Aided Assessment) community is interested in, I'm sure that they 
>have a lot to say about the matter, and I know for a fact that they are 
>already using MathML markup for marking up mathematical objects, though 
>I'm not sure the mechanism they use for eliding 'answer' objects. I have 
>CCed this mail to Chris Sanguin, who is the current editor of the on-line 
>CAA journal.
>I hope this is of help.
>On Thu, 22 Sep 2005, Neil Soiffer wrote:
>>The MathML interest group is in the final process of collecting suggestions for what a MathML 3 Working Group should consider as part of its scope.
>>I proposed that the committee should consider the needs of people taking tests.  One such need is the ability to say that a certain area is editable so that the test taker can only fill in (for example) the right hand side of an equation or the coefficients of a polynomial.   >  
>>Does anyone else have any suggestions for requirements related to test taking?
>>Does anyone think this is *not* an area a working group should explore?
>>If you have any burning issues that you haven't found a good solution with the current MathML spec, now is the time to raise them so that they can be considered by the next working group.  You don't need to propose a solution, just a general area for which the group should explore a solution.
>>Neil Soiffer
>>Senior Scientist
>>Design Science, Inc.
>>~ Makers of Equation Editor, MathType, MathPlayer and MathFlow ~
>-                  Dr. W.A. Naylor
>-                  http://www.cs.bath.ac.uk/~wn
>-                  http://orcca.on.ca/~bill
>-                  work tel: +44 1225 386183
Received on Monday, 26 September 2005 11:19:40 UTC

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