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The JOMA Mathlet Project - JOMA Mathlets Review Criteria

Author(s): 
Tom Roby

In our summer 2000 reviewing effort, we started from Gene Klotz's definition of a mathlet:

A mathlet is a small, interactive, platform-independent tool for teaching math -- the equivalent of a good example that you want to haul out, give (or show) to your students, and let them go explore. Some will be more general purpose and of broader use, but the basic idea is that they should be simple to explain and to use.

Although technological specifications are bound to change with the times, at the moment we expect submissions to run on both Windows-based PC's using Netscape or Internet Explorer, and on Macintoshes using Internet Explorer. (The current version of Netscape for Macintoshes uses a very old version of Java, so most applets will run poorly if at all.) Plug-ins may be used, provided that they may be downloaded without cost.

JOMA REVIEW CRITERIA

Essential:

  • Does the applet contribute to learning mathematics?
  • Is the mathematics correct and worthwhile?

Interface:

  • Usability: Is the visual appearance clear and inviting? Can the user get started quickly? Are the controls easy to use and navigate? Are the directions clear and to the point?
  • Use of Technology: Does the mathlet take appropriate advantage of technology, e.g., animation or opportunities for interaction? Does text come in small sections with links to more details when appropriate? Would it be possible to demonstrate the same content equally well using static graphics and text?

Content:

  • Focus: Is the mathematics worthwhile and handled at an appropriate level? Does it try to do too much? (Some applications may be good as modules but too extensive to be considered a "Mathlet".)
  • Clarity: Is the activity clearly presented? Will students quickly grasp how to get started?
  • Robustness: Will the software correctly handle the potential range of inputs? Were there any performance problems?

Technical questions we would like reviewers to answer for good applets:

  • Context: Does the mathlet come with sufficient context to be understandable, or does it require the instructor to provide it?
  • Suitability: What would be the best uses of this mathlet? Classroom demonstration? Homework with (or without) classroom demonstration? Independent student use ahead of class?
  • Plug-ins: Are any plug-ins required? (You may not be sure, but answer as best you can.)
  • Platform: What platform(s) and browsers did you use to run the mathlet? Did you encounter any differences?
  • Troubleshooting: Did you encounter any technical difficulties? How did you surmount them?
  • Cataloging: Is the mathlet cataloged completely and correctly under the "JOMA Journal" heading?
  • Redeeming Features: If something strikes you about a mathlet that indicates a second look is in order, even for one clearly unsuitable for JOMA, please put a note in the "Notes" section and the "Keyword" "REVISIT". For example, a site that would be better reviewed as a module, one containing an unusual feature that you'd like to see used more widely, or one where your review would differ substantially from the current one.

Tom Roby, "The JOMA Mathlet Project - JOMA Mathlets Review Criteria," Loci (June 2004)

JOMA

Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications

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