The Math Exam Resources (MER) wiki, hosted on the UBC wiki, is a free online learning resource for UBC students taking large multi-section math courses, particularly first year calculus. The resource, located at http://wiki.ubc.ca/Science:Math_Exam_Resources, consists of 500 reviewed hints and solutions to 90 previous department exams.
The MER wiki was created to improve mathematics learning for students from all faculties taking courses through the math department (particularly first-year students). Past exams are freely available on the UBC math department website, but solutions are not. The wiki provides detailed solutions to students that encourage and enhance their understanding of the material. It allows students to view questions, hints, and various approaches to the problem as it guides them through full, peer-reviewed solutions. Started in March 2012, the MER wiki is a community project, with all hints and solutions written and curated by graduate students in the UBC Math Department on a voluntary basis. The ultimate goal of this project is to provide an open and free educational resource to undergraduate students taking math courses at UBC and elsewhere.
Innovative Use of Wiki Technology
Use of the wiki platform for solution publishing has the following benefits, all which improve the learning experience.
- Content presentation
- The format of each wiki question page, with its hidden hints and solutions, allows the user to try the problem him/herself, then look at a hint before consulting the solution. The hints offer advice such as what techniques are relevant for the given question, how to think about setting up the problem, or how understanding the motivation of the problem can lead to an idea of how to solve it.
- Users can ask questions and give feedback via the built-in discussion page for each question. Whether a key hint is missing, an explanation is unclear, or there is another way to solve a problem, users can leave a comment in the discussion tab and the content will be updated within days (frequently hours!).
- The ability to "flag" wiki pages has allowed us to create a system that tags individual question pages by topic. Thus we are able to organize the wiki content in multiple ways to meet different needs; a student reviewing for a particular course can simply click on a link for that course, while someone who wants to practice a specific kind of question (say, related rates problems in calculus) can click on that topic and receive a list of questions from across multiple courses.
- Quality Control
- Because the wiki is so easy to edit, solutions with mistakes or typos are quickly fixed. In addition, since anyone can contribute to a page, we have instituted a peer-review system where each question, hint, and solution is reviewed by someone who was not its author. The wiki format then facilitates editing by the reviewer, and/or leaving comments to improve content. The flag system that allows us to sort by topic also allows us to flag content quality, indicating when work on a particular problem is complete.
- MER wiki content is free and available to students at UBC and around the world. In particular, all of our solutions are available for use in other educational resources via website/blog embedding or book creation. Furthermore, because the Mediawiki format itself is open-source, the templates and design of the MER wiki are also freely available, meaning that any group or institution can use our model to create their own wiki for content distribution.
We are constantly considering how to best expand and effectively use this resource to improve the quality of teaching and learning of mathematics at UBC. These are a few ideas that we are currently pursuing:
- Using the MER wiki in classes during the term, not just as a finals study resource.
- Integrated with a class syllabus and learning goals. (See an example here.)
- Our tagging system allows students to generate a list of problems by topic, useful for reviewing a necessary topic or practicing during the term.
- Because our tagging system would apply wiki-wide, the development of other departmental wikis would allow us (and them) to cross-reference relevant problems.
- More undergraduate involvement.
- Using google analytics data and/or a ratings system to improve review sessions or exam creation.
Suggestions for future projects, especially from UBC faculty, are welcomed at our email address,
mer-wiki (at) ubc (dot) math (dot) ca.
Presentations of the MER project
- Discussion on twitter during OpenEd13: here and here.
- Part of OpenEd13 presentation here.
- Write-up on BC campus website at the close of open-ed week 2014: here.
- At BC campus interview with Novak Rogic here. When we first created UBC wiki, we didn’t envision portals like the Math Exam/Education Resources wiki emerging. But they have and people love it because the underlying technology is open, capable, user-friendly, and simply awesome. ~Novak Rogic