The Open University - STACK

STACK is a robust open-source mathematics assessment system which has been transformed from an innovative research project by a team of mathematics educators and IT professionals from three UK institutions. Its use has significantly enhanced the learning experience of thousands of students.

The project team members all share an interest in enhancing students’ learning of mathematics through technology. Tim Lowe is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Statistics, and Tim Hunt is an IT Senior Developer, both at the Open University. Chris Sangwin is Professor of Technology Enhanced Science Education at the University of Edinburgh, and Ian Jones is a Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education at Loughborough University.

Impact of work

STACK enables students to give mathematical expressions as answers to online questions, automatically generates different versions of each question and assesses the mathematical properties of the student’s answer, giving appropriate feedback to support learning. This overcomes the deficiencies of using closed question types, such as multiple choice, in mathematics. The team have used STACK to great success with thousands of students across their institutions.

The system has been installed at over 700 sites across the world and have been translated into eight different languages.  

Plans for the future

The team intends to continue to expand the use of STACK within courses at their institutions, and to support other colleagues in adopting the system. They would also like to further their research into how students use the system, and the insight this can give to how students learn. System developments are also continuing, particularly into how to assess students’ complete mathematical arguments and to provide better support for specific subjects, such as dimensional numerical quantities in science.  They also plan to facilitate question exchange by developing a text-based format and using version control software such as GIT to help teachers contribute easily, and track changes to materials.

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The Open University