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Math researchers collaborate with centre for artificial intelligence

Dr. Sherry Mantyka and Theresa Ricketts, researchers with the Mathematics Learning Centre at Memorial University, have recently returned from a three-week workshop on remedial mathematics instruction at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) in Saarbruken, Germany.

DFKI is Germany’s leading research center in the area of innovative software technology for commercial application. It is recognized as one of the most important Centers of Excellence in the world for its ability to rapidly bring leading edge research to commercially relevant application solutions.

Dr. Mantyka and Ms. Ricketts were invited to participate in the development of an online remedial math system which began in May.

“The aim of the project is to add European remedial content for mathematics to the existing Math-Bridge online system,” explained Ms. Ricketts. “Math-Bridge aims to provide self-directed eLearning in mathematics to its users through a program called LeActiveMath or Language-Enhanced, User Adaptive, Interactive eLearning for Mathematics.”

LeActiveMath can be accessed in several European languages and is adaptive to the learner’s goals, field of study and competency levels. It is an intelligent tutoring system and content is mostly limited to university or college level mathematics.

Although Memorial, through the MLC, was named as a partner in the project, EU funding was originally only available to EU partners. However the head of the project, Dr. Erica Melis of the DFKI, was insistent that the expertise of the MLC was needed and provided the funds for a three-week workshop between representatives of the MLC, the DFKI and teachers from the Universities of Kassel and Paderborn in Germany.

During their visit, the pair observed demonstrations of the online system, and studied its strategies, tutorial components and structure and metadata model. They then began working on developing a course concept and remedial strategies that could assist project teachers and technicians in producing a viable remedial scenario for LeActiveMath.

“These pedagogues suggest that it should be possible to develop within LeActiveMath different remedial strategies with varying levels of interactivity and adaptivity so as to enable either self-directed eLearning or a form of blended learning with both eLearning and phases of presence, where tutors and students meet,” said Ms. Ricketts.

It is hoped that when the Math-Bridge Remedial Program is ready, the MLC will be able to participate in the testing of it by MLC students and if successful it will be available for use by Memorial students and instructors.