Sir Cumference
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Hi everyone,

This is a community thread for all users to communicate with each other as well as discuss issues / make suggestions related to the maths forum.

It was clear a few months ago that a lot of helpers had feelings about the maths forum that were kept to themselves and these feelings suddenly all came out at once! While the discussion thread was very useful (many of the suggestions have led to changes), it also led to a lot of extra stuff that distracted from the main issues.

I believe regular discussion is more useful and also more openness with the wider TSR community is important, which I'm hoping this thread will facilitate. The maths forum will be quiet for the next few months so now is a perfect time to share your thoughts.

Currently on the maths Support Team:

Lemur14
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Kevin De Bruyne
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Perhaps TSR could introduce a feature where if someone visits or posts in the maths forum for the fist time; they must read and agree to the guidelines - including some form of prompt to get people to post there working, and discourage anyone from helping until posting (or an admission of being completely stuck) is visible.

Some kind of tab that has common latex code (that you can click on and then the code pastes in your reply) would be handy as well, this would be most useful for people trying to write fractions
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Muttley79
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(Original post by Notnek)
Hi everyone,

This is a community thread for Maths Forum study helpers to communicate with each other as well as discuss issues / make suggestions related to helping students on TSR. The maths forum is unique on TSR (and most other forums) in that we have a large group of volunteers helping out on a regular basis, some of whom have been helping students for over 10 years.

It was clear a few months ago that a lot of helpers had feelings about the maths forum that were kept to themselves and these feelings suddenly all came out at once! While the discussion thread was very useful (many of the suggestions have led to changes), it also led to a lot of extra stuff that distracted from the main issues.

I believe regular discussion is more useful and also more openness with the wider TSR community is important, which I'm hoping this thread will facilitate. The maths forum will be quiet for the next few months so now is a perfect time to share your thoughts. Of course any posts you make here are public - if there are issues that you would not like to share with everyone then feel free to PM me.



(I have tagged some people that came to mind but I'm sure I've missed out loads of regulars. Please join in with this thread if I missed you out).
Thanks for the tag.

My biggest issue is a couple of posters that seem to prioritise 'showing off' by using notation and terminology that isn't needed or helpful at A level/GCSE.

Also if I see someone else is helping I move on - some people feel they have to intervene on every maths thread.

With all the specification changes, perhaps uni students need to check what is in the new ones?

Do we need to agree on some basics on offering help to avoid both these scenarios?
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gdunne42
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(Original post by Notnek)
Hi everyone,

This is a community thread for Maths Forum study helpers to communicate with each other as well as discuss issues / make suggestions related to helping students on TSR. The maths forum is unique on TSR (and most other forums) in that we have a large group of volunteers helping out on a regular basis, some of whom have been helping students for over 10 years.

It was clear a few months ago that a lot of helpers had feelings about the maths forum that were kept to themselves and these feelings suddenly all came out at once! While the discussion thread was very useful (many of the suggestions have led to changes), it also led to a lot of extra stuff that distracted from the main issues.

I believe regular discussion is more useful and also more openness with the wider TSR community is important, which I'm hoping this thread will facilitate. The maths forum will be quiet for the next few months so now is a perfect time to share your thoughts. Of course any posts you make here are public - if there are issues that you would not like to share with everyone then feel free to PM me.



(I have tagged some people that came to mind but I'm sure I've missed out loads of regulars. Please join in with this thread if I missed you out).
Picking up on one of muttleys points I wonder if a sticky to summarise the facts about
-legacy specifications&resits,
-new specs in England from AQA, Eduquas, Edexcel and OCR,,
-different changes in Wales and I think in NI
-no change to IAL

would be useful to add over the summer?
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Sir Cumference
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(Original post by Kevin De Bruyne)
Perhaps TSR could introduce a feature where if someone visits or posts in the maths forum for the fist time; they must read and agree to the guidelines - including some form of prompt to get people to post there working, and discourage anyone from helping until posting (or an admission of being completely stuck) is visible.

Some kind of tab that has common latex code (that you can click on and then the code pastes in your reply) would be handy as well, this would be most useful for people trying to write fractions
There are plans afoot to have an automated message display for users who post full solutions or break other maths forum rules (once their post has been removed). This could also have a link to the posting guidelines, which will need to be improved.

The main issue we have is how to make more users aware of the posting guidelines. We could make the sticky bright and sparkly but we all know that most new users are still not going to read it. Ideally we need to get more users to read it by making changes that don't require IT development work, otherwise the changes may be low priority and take a long time to be implemented. TSR is a very big community so not everything we want will get done unfortunately

The LaTeX idea is also an excellent one.
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Sir Cumference
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(Original post by Muttley79)
Thanks for the tag.

My biggest issue is a couple of posters that seem to prioritise 'showing off' by using notation and terminology that isn't needed or helpful at A level/GCSE.

Also if I see someone else is helping I move on - some people feel they have to intervene on every maths thread.

With all the specification changes, perhaps uni students need to check what is in the new ones?

Do we need to agree on some basics on offering help to avoid both these scenarios?
Thanks so much for the suggestions.

Making all the helpers aware of changes to specs is an excellent idea and it is now something I plan to do in this thread with help from other teachers on TSR like yourself (if they're free and willing to help).

The TSR maths forum has always been a place where anyone can help anyone else. Because of this you will see lots of different styles of helper - there is no TSR training that we all go through to learn how to help students. I think this is fine since students know they're often getting free help from other students so I don't think they expect the quality to be the same as that of their teacher. Singling out helpers and telling them how to teach (I'm not saying you're doing this) is not a good idea and will lead to division and possibly lead to helpers leaving.

Having said all this, I personally think that all the regular helpers do a great job. And compared to a forum like Mathematics Stack Exchange for example, the amount of showing off I see is very low. If I see others commenting that 'showing off' is a big issue here then we will definitely do something about it. And if you continue to notice it then feel free to PM me with examples
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Sir Cumference
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(Original post by gdunne42)
Picking up on one of muttleys points I wonder if a sticky to summarise the facts about
-legacy specifications&resits,
-new specs in England from AQA, Eduquas, Edexcel and OCR,,
-different changes in Wales and I think in NI
-no change to IAL

would be useful to add over the summer?
As well as making helpers aware, putting a sticky up at the top of this forum is also a very good idea. If you have time to make something then I can sticky it or we could all work together to make it. Or I'm happy to make it myself but I may ask for help since I'm not an expert yet on all the changes, especially for the different exam boards.
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gdunne42
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(Original post by Notnek)
As well as making helpers aware, putting a sticky up at the top of this forum is also a very good idea. If you have time to make something then I can sticky it or we could all work together to make it. Or I'm happy to make it myself but I may ask for help since I'm not an expert yet on all the changes, especially for the different exam boards.
Will write something late next week and put it up for review and comment
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Sir Cumference
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(Original post by gdunne42)
Will write something late next week and put it up for review and comment
Amazing, thank you!
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davros
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(Original post by gdunne42)
Picking up on one of muttleys points I wonder if a sticky to summarise the facts about
-legacy specifications&resits,
-new specs in England from AQA, Eduquas, Edexcel and OCR,,
-different changes in Wales and I think in NI
-no change to IAL

would be useful to add over the summer?
As someone who helps relatively infrequently these days because of other commitments, and who is not directly involved with the education system, I would definitely appreciate some pointers to the new specs and testing arrangements (number and testable content of exam papers for example).

Is all the new A level and FM content finalized now? Any observations on the range and standard of textbooks available to support these, or is it too early yet?
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Sir Cumference
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(Original post by davros)
As someone who helps relatively infrequently these days because of other commitments, and who is not directly involved with the education system, I would definitely appreciate some pointers to the new specs and testing arrangements (number and testable content of exam papers for example).

Is all the new A level and FM content finalized now? Any observations on the range and standard of textbooks available to support these, or is it too early yet?
Just tagging in gdunne42 - he will be writing a guide and could include this information.
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Sir Cumference
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(Original post by DFranklin)
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(Original post by Zacken)
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(Original post by ghostwalker)
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(Original post by RDKGames)
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(Original post by BuryMathsTutor)
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(Original post by _gcx)
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(Original post by Muttley79)
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(Original post by atsruser)
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(Original post by gdunne42)
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(Original post by Kevin De Bruyne)
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(Original post by Mr M)
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(Original post by Notnek)
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Sorry for the mass tag again but it would be good to have as much input as possible on this.

Currently I don't feel that the "rules" of the maths forum are clear enough and the current posting guide is not very detailed and is more guidance than a set of rules. If someone posts a full solution for example then they are more likely to not do it again if they can see that this is an actual rule that we all follow and not just something that we encourage.

So I want to have a set of rules for asking and answering questions and a user can be directed to view a certain rule e.g. Rule 4 if they break that rule. It could be that we have some key rules that everyone must follow and some additional guidance rules? If someone breaks a key rule then their post would be removed and they would recieve a notification which directs them to the particular rule they broke. All the non-key rules can be part of the posting guidance that users can choose to read.

Please let me know what you think about this plan and if you have any criticisms or suggestions. And I've drafted some rules for answering questions below. Please criticise and suggest more rules:

Answering Questions Rules

1) Posting a full solution should always be a last resort. Most full solutions will be removed. The best way to help a student is to get them to do as much of the question as possible. So when helping a student start by offering small hints and keep giving more hints until the student is able to proceed with the question. If a student is unwilling to post their working and are asking for a full solution then you should not offer them help. Key rule

2) If the student has posted no working then ask them to post working instead of blindingly trying to help. It could be that the student is stuck with the final step of the working or aren’t able to start the question. Try to find out this information instead of guessing where/why they are stuck.

3) Aim to assist the student with the method they are using. Only offer alternative methods once the student is happy that their question has been answered or if you feel that the student’s current method is leading to confusion.

4) Only offer help to a student if you’re confident you can help them. If you are not confident with the student’s question then it’s best not to try to help them and leave it to someone else instead. You don’t want to make the student more confused than they were before.

5) Do not to use ambiguous notation. For example, if you are trying to type the fraction \frac{3}{x+1} then 3/(x+1) is much clearer than 3/x+1. If you plan to help students regularly in the maths forum then consider learning LaTeX maths formatting. Key rule

6) Never criticise or belittle a student for posting a question that you consider “easy”. In the maths forum we aim to help students of all abilities tackle questions from all academic levels. Key rule

7) Keep your explanation and notation relevant to the academic level of the student. For example if it is clear that a student has posted a GCSE question then don’t give them an A Level method for their question. Similarly try not to use university level notation when helping A Level students. An example of this is \log x which commonly denotes the natural logarithm post A Level but A Level students are more likely to recognise \ln x. If you’re not sure which topics/notation the student is familiar with then you should ask them before making assumptions.

8) Try to make sure your post has no mistakes before posting it. It’s often a good idea to use “preview post” to check that you haven’t made any mistakes and any maths formatting you’ve used is displayed correctly.

9) Don't "barge in" while another helper is offering hints. If you notice that a student and helper are replying to each other back-and-forth then it's best to allow this one-on-one to continue without interrupting, unless you feel that the helper has made a mistake.

10) If a hint has already been given, don't offer a bigger hint. Allow the student to respond to the smaller hint before offering them a larger one. We want students to do as much of the question themselves as possible. Giving a bigger hint can also be frustrating for the first helper since their post becomes redundant. Key rule

(9 and 10 are similar and may need to be combined)


Spoiler:
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For people who can't view the list above:

1) Posting a full solution should always be a last resort. Most full solutions will be removed. The best way to help a student is to get them to do as much of the question as possible. So when helping a student start by offering small hints and keep giving more hints until the student is able to proceed with the question. If a student is unwilling to post their working and are asking for a full solution then you should not offer them help. Key rule

2) If the student has posted no working then ask them to post working instead of blindingly trying to help. It could be that the student is stuck with the final step of the working or aren’t able to start the question. Try to find out this information instead of guessing where/why they are stuck.

3) Aim to assist the student with the method they are using. Only offer alternative methods once the student is happy that their question has been answered or if you feel that the student’s current method is leading to confusion.

4) Only offer help to a student if you’re confident you can help them. If you are not confident with the student’s question then it’s best not to try to help them and leave it to someone else instead. You don’t want to make the student more confused than they were before.

5) Do not to use ambiguous notation. For example, if you are trying to type the fraction \frac{3}{x+1} then 3/(x+1) is much clearer than 3/x+1. If you plan to help students regularly in the maths forum then consider learning LaTeX maths formatting. Key rule

6) Never criticise or belittle a student for posting a question that you consider “easy”. In the maths forum we aim to help students of all abilities tackle questions from all academic levels. Key rule

7) Keep your explanation and notation relevant to the academic level of the student. For example if it is clear that a student has posted a GCSE question then don’t give them an A Level method for their question. Similarly try not to use university level notation when helping A Level students. An example of this is \log x which commonly denotes the natural logarithm post A Level but A Level students are more likely to recognise \ln x. If you’re not sure which topics/notation the student is familiar with then you should ask them before making assumptions.

8) Try to make sure your post has no mistakes before posting it. It’s often a good idea to use “preview post” to check that you haven’t made any mistakes and any maths formatting you’ve used is displayed correctly.

9) Don't "barge in" while another helper is offering hints. If you notice that a student and helper are replying to each other back-and-forth then it's best to allow this one-on-one to continue without interrupting, unless you feel that the helper has made a mistake.

10) If a hint has already been given, don't offer a bigger hint. Allow the student to respond to the smaller hint before offering them a larger one. We want students to do as much of the question themselves as possible. Giving a bigger hint can also be frustrating for the first helper since their post becomes redundant. Key rule

(9 and 10 are similar and may need to be combined)

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Mr M
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(Original post by davros)
Is all the new A level and FM content finalized now?
Yes.


(Original post by davros)
Any observations on the range and standard of textbooks available to support these, or is it too early yet?
Most textbooks will not be published until the Autumn. Yes, after teaching has begun.
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Mr M
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(Original post by Notnek)
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Your rules are pretty good although I don't think that 8) is necessary. Something that irritates me is when someone else jumps in when you are patiently nudging someone towards an answer so something about not barging in might be good!

The risk of prescriptive rules is that some people may just choose not to help at all.
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Sir Cumference
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(Original post by Mr M)
Your rules are pretty good although I don't think that 8) is necessary. Something that irritates me is when someone else jumps in when you are patiently nudging someone towards an answer so something about not barging in might be good!

The risk of prescriptive rules is that some people may just choose not to help at all.
Thanks. Actually I would not have thought of 8) last year but there have been a couple of posters this year that frequently post incorrect maths and then edited their post once others have corrected their mistakes. But it's only a couple of posters so it probably doesn't need to be part of the guidance.

Yes it's important that not all the rules are enforced which is why I think it's best that we have a few key rules e.g. "No full solutions" and "No ambgious notation". Users would be notified if they broke these rules. Everything else can be part of the guidance that users can choose to read if they want.

Something that irritates me is when someone else jumps in when you are patiently nudging someone towards an answer so something about not barging in might be good!
That's a good one that should be included.
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black1blade
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Yeah I haven't actually read the rules til now but full solutions posting is a pretty obvious no no and really annoying. I actually quite liked that quarter of a circle cut out question someone posted a few days ago, shame everyone had to spoil it for the student trying to solve the problem.
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black1blade
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Also yeah if you do make an error you should make another post rectifying it rather than editing (which I actually did before anyone posted pointed it out in the sin^2=/=1+cos^2 case :P).
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Sir Cumference
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(Original post by black1blade)
Yeah I haven't actually read the rules til now but full solutions posting is a pretty obvious no no and really annoying. I actually quite liked that quarter of a circle cut out question someone posted a few days ago, shame everyone had to spoil it for the student trying to solve the problem.
Yes this has always been a rule of the maths forum that's annoyed everyone but it's never really been enforced. If you ever see a full solution then feel free to tag me and the post will be removed and the user will receive a posting tip.

There are plans to have an automated message display to a user who posts a full solution (once their post is removed) and this message may direct the user to the rules listed above.

Also, sorry for not tagging you in the list of helpers - there are lots of people that I forgot. I do notice that you help a lot of students
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ghostwalker
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(Original post by Notnek)
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Calling them rules rather than guidance, and detailing the main ones may help, and I think would be a constructive thing to do.

I would suggest that any action taken as a result of infringement of the rules is at the CA's discretion, rather than being "break this rule and your post will be deleted", something along the lines of "Admin (or whoever) reserve the right to amend or delete posts that contravene these rules".

For an amendment, I susggest tagging the poster, amending the post, and saying who is doing it and why.
Can offenders get a yellow card? A tie in to the more formal warning system.

You are, of course, making more work for yourself and other CA's(?).

However, as Gregory House said, rules are a guideline for people who don't think, and should not be slavishly followed - or words to that effect.

Asking question Rule (new)
Failure to provide a suitable label for your thread will result in five years hard labour.

Edit: Just did a preview and things have moved on. Doh.
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ghostwalker
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(Original post by Notnek)
If you ever see a full solution then feel free to tag me and the post will be removed and the user will receive a posting tip.
Whilst full solutions in general are contrary to the ethos of the maths forum, I have found that there are occasions (2 or 3 a year, at present) where the first response being a full solution is the appropriate response.
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