I've looked over the Moodle Docs "Mathematics" and I saw a few tools listed.
My questions are:
1.) Are those plug-ins or add-ons (files that need to be put on the web server) or is it something I can do in the Moodle application interface w/o uploading anything?
2.) Is there a Mathematics tool that works best/easiest with Linux?
3.) Any opinions on the different types of Mathematics tools - good/bad?
As we are doing our Moodle trainings this question gets asked most frequently. Thanks for any help in advance.
Which plug-ins were you thinking of in particular? Were you thinking of plug-ins to render math notation or ones that support math teaching.
Yes..... Seriously, I have tried to sort the items out a bit but they fall into a number of different categories. I'd be happy to answer questions about anything you find there. However, I am not sure I understand what you mean by "do in the Moodle application interface". If you mean, is any of this already incorporated in Moodle, about the only thing that is current packaged in the barebones Moodle are the text filters.
Many of the items mentioned are simple installs, many available from the M&P pages at moodle.org. Some are more curricular in nature and some just have to do with writing and displaying equations and graphs.
2.) Is there a Mathematics tool that works best/easiest with Linux?
I think everything I mention on the Mathematics page will work in a *nix environment. I would have to argue that every Moodle addressing Math instruction should have at least Dragmath and asciimathml with d.svg installed. Beyond that, if you are running your own Moodle you may want to look at STACK and/or WebWorks (the full or abbreviated version) for doing assessment (these are server apps and require a bit of installation. I think java sketchpad and descartes are incredible, but whether you pursue these or other java based solutions, they make for great opportunities to provide interactive instruction.
3.) Any opinions on the different types of Mathematics tools - good/bad?
As you may have already realized, I think both dragmath and asciimathml are critical tools.... easy to install and use.
Whether you want to dive into descartes or not, I would at least do an install of java sketchpad (I posted about some issues with that, and you can find those posts when and if.... but its actually pretty easy to install and use)
Hot Potatoes is a handy tool and you can import materials developed with HotPotatoes in their Native format - and this also means that it is easy to build a library and share these.
The webworks question server is a subset of webworks and gives you access to the webworks testbank. I am not sure if the module for Moodle 1.9 is available yet..... It involves some administrative setup, but as it provides access to the webworks test bank, that may be worth it for you.
And STACK is an entire framework in which to do Math assessment, but this requires some sophistication in doing the install.
Lastly, as it is commercial, you might look at cut-the-knot...
Just thinking of maths filters/plug-ins: I do agree that asciimathml and DragMath are excellent, but I do need to mention the problems I've had...
In my experience it is better having the math notation rendered on the server and then falling back to rendering on the client, rather than the other way around. Whether or not you can install server-side rendering depends on who's hosting it.
I've had no end of trouble with client-side rendering in schools in the UK due to web filtering policies. For example with DragMath: an excellent tool, but in a lot of schools over here you get an empty window - Java applets don't load.
Solutions? Well, you may need to be prepared to argue with over-zealous admins - but I have been in the situation where the browser configuration was actually the responsibility of managers at the district level - and there was nothing any of us could do about it .
Best thing to do is experiment. And, of course, post here if you get stuck .
Hope this helps,
You're absolutely right about MathML: it's great but it's horrible. I worked in accessibility for about 5 years (designed IE accessibility system for Supernova). All blind and partially sighted students in the UK were/are taught LaTeX - which is obviously "sort of" readable in its raw form. When MathML came along we found it a bit of a step backwards to be honest.
Actually, you can do asciimathml via php...
Big thumbs-up for that: I didn't know you could do this. If you could point me in the direction of some good instruction (the *good* instructions always seem hard to find - for me, at least) that would be much appreciated. I'm sure that this would have solved some of the problems I've had in the past.
I am working on an ASCIIMathML page in moodle docs, which hopefully will eventually put lots of resources in just one place.... In the meantime you can find Chan's work here:
http://www.oldschool.com.sg/index.php/module/Shared/action/Static/tmpl/ASCIIMathPHP (there are number of links on various webpages that point to jcphysics.com that do not work anymore) Note that though Old School offers version 2.0 of ASCIIMathPHP, this is based on versin 1.x of asciimathML. While David Lippman has done some work on a PHP filter to convert asciimathML to Tex, I dont know if he has updated Chan's code to asciimathML v 2.x.... The 1.x version of asciimathml did not have the added functionality *SVG etc) added later....
ANother option, of course, is moving the js server-side.....
On MathML and TeX, this is potentially off-topic, but I thought it would be good to mention the benefits of TeX:
- easy to create (can use notepad)
- easy to Braille (just Braille the TeX as-is)
- can be TTS'd easily
- easily converted to other accessible formats
...and the two key advantages of MathML:
- magnifying equations (without the blurring you get from a software magnifier)
- changing text colours/backgrounds (excellent if you are partially sighted)
MathPlayer is the plugin I use in IE. I know that's accessible using Supernova (I wrote the integration code ). AudioMath isn't a project I've come across, but looks fascinating. I can see a few potential issues, especially with screenreader integration.
Thanks for the links. Very interesting reading.
I'd have to add some additional text expression formats to your analysis and some other points..... I would be very interested in your adding to such material based on your involvement in usage in such respects and will add this to the Mathematics docs page so that it can be edited if someone thinks it might be worthwhile ;=}
There should be additional columns for OpenOffice Math, Maxima, etc and probably additional rows.... and for points like audio the table should have the apps that enable this as well as some footnotes on integration and use.....
|Ease of Use
||Difficult to master
||Very difficult to master
||Pretty darn easy
||This one one of the raison d'etre's for MathML, accessibility
|Conversion to/from other syntax
||Dragmath offers a fine example of using xml files to address conversion
||Conversion from MathML to other syntax still a major hurdle
||Tables included in code. Lippman's fallback code also converts to TeX.
|Conversion to Braille
|Conversion from Braille
||With a simpler syntax, probably easier than TeX
MathPlayer claims to do math-to-speech by parsing the MathML, not by parsing TeX. See http://www.dessci.com/en/products/mathplayer/tech/accessibility.htm where it is stated:
All of these examples were written in Microsoft Word and MathType and exported to MathML using MathType’s “MathPage” technology. MathPage technology was added to MathType in version 5.0. No special work is needed to author the expressions to make them accessible. Any product that exports MathML will produce pages that MathPlayer can speak.
For a larger real life example, see this page. Also, MSN Encarta uses MathML on many of their web pages that contain math, so much of their Math should be accessible using MathPlayer.
More than happy to work on the docs - although I am very tied up at the moment with other work (excuses, excuses). I'll double-check Supernova's MathPlayer integration - even though I wrote it I can't remember how it works (sign of old age, I think). Also (more signs of old age) where in the docs were you thinking of having this information?
I am presently the "maintainer" for DragMath so if you have specific issues with dragmath and Moodle I am happy to try and help (though Chris and Alex do check in here from time to time......) The reason I mention this is that I have seen occasion when IT was blamed for blocking dragmath, but it was really a file location issue (java can be demanding and there are some issues in how applets are sourced in moodle)....
I think asciimath/dragmath are one good push from being able to edit existing equations (e. g. if one parsed all existing expressions that are between tokens into an array one could impement editing of elements of the array.....) and a nudge from covering OpenOffice text expressions
I'll definitely take you up on the offer of DragMath help: issues happen fairly frequently. 9 times out of 10 I manage to overcome them (often by sweet-talking admins ) - but for that 1 time I'll be getting in touch.
My question is, do you need multiple tools? Do the tools do a lot of the same operations?
One of the main things our teachers want to do is being able to insert and type math symbols that are obviously not on the keyboard or in Moodle now. We use IE7 and I don't know how well Java will work on our system. I will have to look into if there would be any problems with using Java.
When I said the "Moodle application interface" I meant can you enable and install when you're in your Moodle site (which I would assume no).
One more question - when putting the files for the tool on your server is it just a matter of putting the files on there or is there any code you have to change in the php or any command line? Thanks.
Thanks for all of the information everyone. Some of it is a little over my head but good info...
Sorry - that was Marc and I having a conversation completely off at a tangent .
It seems as though dragmath and asciimathml are two tools to look into...
You're absolutely right.
To install DragMath you need to follow the instructions at http://docs.moodle.org/en/Dragmath No coding required . If there is something you don't understand in the instructions, or you get stuck, then please post back.
I've not installed ASCIIMathML (yet! - studying this is on my list of things to do), so I'll need to hand over to Marc for advice on that. The details are at http://moodle.org/mod/data/view.php?d=13&rid=1695.
Thinking about it, I've got another question for Marc, but I think I'll start another thread .
Hope this helps,
DragMath is NOT a display technology, but what I call a constructor technology (as Chris pointed out it was originally desined to be used with STACK). To make use of it with Moodle you would typically have some display technology to parse the text expression that you produce with DragMath.
You need to select the correct output to match your filter. If you set DragMath to tex it will produce only tex, which is the text expression you are seeing. If you are using the Moodle TeX filter then you will need to set the output to MoodleTex, which then adds dollar signs to the expression so that the Moodle TeX filter recognizes and parses the text expression.
If you are using asciimath, then set dragmath to use asciimathML.
Anyways, I have (sort of) figured it out. I had the DragMath installed fine. However, I need to have some sort of translator to put it in that format, right?
At first, I thought I can just turn on the "Tex" filter. However, I turned it on and tried it again and it did not work. So, I installed the AsciiMath ---- and it works!
Here are my final questions - do you have to install some other packages to get the "Tex" and "Algebra" filters working? I see they come with Moodle but there must be something else you have to do to get it working.
Second, when using DragMath, in the instructions it tells you to save/export but do you HAVE to save and export and pick which export method you want? Or can you just hit insert and have it work? Is the save and export just if you want to save that equation?
Thanks in advance!!
Often you just need to check permissions of folder filter/tex and files inside it to get Tex working...
You do not HAVE to save dragmath diagrams. Saving can be handy especially if you are using the same equations over and over (quadratic equation comes to mind)..... you just need to make sure you are exporting to the correct format and insert.....
I have installed DragMath on a Windows Server. You suggested also installing AsciiMath. Is this necesarry working in a Windows Server or only on Linux?
If you are asking if it's necessary to install AsciiMathML then the answer is that it's highly recommended, regardless of whether you are running on a Windows or Linux server.
It sounds like you may be unsure of what AsciiMath is for. Am I right in thinking this?
ASCIIMathML where in js or php form, cares not about the nature of the server platform.
It is a wonderful tool for providing an easy to use text expression tool for stating mathematics, displaying asciimath text expressions, Tex and SVG, providing a simple built in calculator,etc., all through a this one script.
However, it is not "necessary" to install either DragMath or ASCIIMathML. Installation affords some benefits.... I recommend their usage because I enjoy the benefits they confer.....
The addition of most non-core features requires that a directory with the code for the feature be placed in the proper Moodle directory, and this cannot be done from inside the Moodle GUI...... there are reasons and arguments but they are probably not germane here.
There are explicit instructions for most of the incremental plugins, modules, etc. DragMath is a bit "odd" in that proper operation involved files beyond the one directory. It is most easily installed with shell access. Because of the typical installation process, most Moodle packages are packaged in a parent directory for ease. Unfortunately, this is a problem for dragmath and I am happy to create a zip without the parent directory for anyone who needs one.
For DragMath you need not edit any code, however, there is one file not in /lib/editor that can trip you up. Details are included in the DragMath install instructions.
Tools, tools, tools...... I think that a tool most useful when its usage is not the primary objective of the use, which means that the best tool is one you use all the time. There are lots of tools you can use for any particular task. I recommend dragmath because it is relatively simple to install, maintain and use, you can extend it yourself because of the way the config files are constructed, and can be used for multiple tasks so that I don't need multiple tools...... the extension to that argument might be that one should use STACK as well, but the functionality of dragmath is there, whether you decide to use STACK or not.
I recommend asciimathML because it is likewise easy to use, fast, easily extensible, and provides an amazing range of functionality, it can be used to provide a calculator, an equation editor, a simplified text expression tool, and an excellent display tool which already displays asciimath text, TeX, and SVG and does this via MathML.
These two tools provide an extensive array of features that you can also obtain from other sources, but you asked for my opinion, and I think these two give you the most bang for the buck as it were....
I think as far as now I will continue exploring DragMath and AsciiMath. Some of the teachers, who have looked over the Math tools, also thought DragMath looked like a tool best fit.
I will be meeting and getting help with the shell access and server side stuff, so it's good to know this info.
On a side note, as I got the DragMath/AsciiMath working (I think, kind of) it works on Firefox and not IE7 (as far as translating the symbols into the real math symbols).
As noted in the installation info, IE does not support MathML, so you need to install MathPlayer and Adobe SVG in order for it to work with MathML. If you are using Firefox, you likely need to install fonts for the best results, and at present you can install the STIX fonts or use the font packages referenced on the MIT site.
There is also, btw, a version of asciimathML with fallback (for situations where a user does not have the additional fonts or plugins) to mimetex.cgi or mathtran and I will be posting that along wth instructions as to how to install this soon.
I invite one and all to vote:
http://tracker.moodle.org/browse/MDL-7306 (while this doesn't say as much, I would suggest that a vote for this is a vote for the inclusion of dragmath as an integral part of the Moodle 2.0 html editor... (you can add a comment if you wish as well!)