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MyLab Monday – Quizzes

MyLab Monday – Quizzes

Since the beginning of MyMathLab, I have incorporated quizzes into my courses. Creating a quiz is identical to creating a homework assignment, and many MyLab Math texts come with quizzes already loaded to copy into your course.

Quizzes do differ in a couple of ways from homework assignments.

Learning Aids

Learning aids are automatically turned off. Students who over rely on “Help Me Solve This” or “View An Example” will hopefully realize this while taking the quiz. (I like to bring a copy of an old pencil-and-paper exam to class during the second week of classes and ask a student to push Help Me Solve This, and another to push View An Example. It’s a great way to point out that they eventually need to be able to solve these problems without help.)

Now this does not mean that your students will not be using their notes or getting help from a tutor, just that they cannot use Pearson’s built in aids. So, it is important to let students know that the purpose of the quiz is a self-assessment, used to identify areas that require further study. In my experience you cannot assume that students view these quizzes as learning tools. Their default position is that quizzes are for earning points.

No Feedback Until Entire Quiz Is Submitted

Another difference from the homework assignments is that students will not find out whether a problem is correct or not until they submit the entire quiz. That also means that they do not get three attempts at each problem, and they cannot request a similar exercise. This helps students get into the frame of mind they need to be in when taking an exam.


I started by giving quizzes at the end of each chapter as a means of getting students to review for exams. These quizzes contained anywhere from 15 to 20 problems. I then moved on to add a quiz at the midpoint of each chapter as a way to get students to begin preparing for the exam a little sooner.

I later switched to using short (5 question) quizzes in each section, with the idea that students would assess themselves at the end of each section before moving on. I now use these quizzes to load a personalized homework assignment – more about that next Monday!

I used to allow students two attempts at each quiz. This gives students a chance to recover from typos, but it also encourages students to go back and try the quiz a second time. MyLab Math, by default, puts only the highest score into the gradebook, so students can try again without fear of lowering their grade. I now allow unlimited attempts, because it seems that 2 attempts is essentially the same as an infinite number of attempts – rarely will a student take a quiz more than twice, although I have seen a student try a quiz 25 times.

I hope these ideas have stimulated some thoughts of your own about incorporating quizzes into your MyLab course. If you’d like to share how you use these quizzes, or if you have any questions, please leave a comment below.

Thanks – George

Flipped Friday – Using MyMathLab for Pre-Class Assignments

Flipped Friday – Using MyMathLab for Pre-Class Assignments

Flipped FridayThis semester I will be posting about my experiences with the Flipped Classroom. I am using this approach in my Statistics class, and you can read about my day-by-day progress here. I am also using this approach in my Intermediate Algebra class, as well as some of my materials in an online Elementary Algebra class. If you have questions, comments, or topics you’d like me to cover, please leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter.

Pre-Class Assignments

In a flipped classroom, direct instruction is moved outside the classroom into the individual space. Before flipping my classroom, my direct instruction involved conceptual explanations and introductions to new topics, followed by examples and an opportunity for student practice. I wanted my flipped pre-class assignments to incorporate those elements in guided practice, and MyMathLab (recently renamed MyLab Math) allows me to do this.

I build media assignments containing conceptual videos and example videos in addition to homework exercises. It’s quite easy to edit a traditional homework assignment to fit this strategy. In the assignment builder I click on Media, then I can add any of the media elements that the publisher includes. In my combined algebra textbook there are over 3000 short videos to choose from. You can also add videos from YouTube or other web sites.

Example – Intermediate Algebra

My Intermediate Algebra class meets for 2 hours on Monday and Wednesday. On Wednesday my goal was to review solving linear inequalities, then move on to solving absolute value inequalities. My MyLab assignment had conceptual videos and example videos related to solving linear inequalities, complex linear inequalities, displaying solutions on a number line and using interval notation. There were also about a half-dozen problems for students to work through. I then followed up with a handful of videos relating to the topic of solving absolute value inequalities, as well as 4 example videos.

This allowed me to begin the class with a group problem solving session for linear inequalities (20 minutes). After a debriefing where we discussed common issues and trouble spots, I started to talk about absolute value inequalities using a number line and the definition of absolute value involving distance. We were able to work backwards from a solution to the absolute value inequality that led to it. We also discussed the differences between “less than” absolute value inequalities and “greater than” absolute value inequalities, and then summarized the procedures we developed.

The class worked through a handful of examples before we finally discussed how to proceed when an absolute value is being compared to a negative number. We shared strategies for how to determine when there are no solutions and when every real number is a solution.


The videos and problems put students in a spot where they understood linear inequalities. (Students who had never seen interval notation got their introduction before class began.) The problems build into the assignment gave them a chance to assess how well they understood. Watching the absolute value inequality videos was the perfect introduction – students were familiar with the type of problem we would be working on and were able to follow my conceptual explanations because they knew where we were going.


MyLab Monday – Media Assignments

MyLab Monday – Media Assignments

MyLab MondayLast night I put the finishing touches on some of the assignments for my intermediate algebra course, and I wanted to write a little bit about media assignments. In the assignments I created I added some short conceptual and example videos from the textbook. (The goal was to provide some direct instruction and review into the assignment.) I was able to do this by creating a media assignment in MyLab.

Creating a media assignment is just like creating a standard homework assignment. As you add exercises, you can click on the media tab and have access to any video (or other media tool) provided with the textbook. For example, I added a conceptual video about absolute value equations and a few example videos to the standard homework problems. By the way, you can also add in videos from web sites like YouTube or links to other web sites.

When working with the assignment’s settings you can set it up so students have to watch all media before working on exercises, but I like my students to be able to try a problem right after the related video.

Have any questions on media assignments? Post them in the comment section. Would you like a video on how to create a media assignment? Let me know.


MyLab Monday – Getting Started

MyLab Monday – Getting Started

MyLab Monday

This semester I am devoting Mondays to getting the most out of MyLab for math instructors – MyLab Monday!
If you have topics related to MyLab that you’d like me to address, or if you have questions about MyLab, please reach out to me by leaving a comment or by visiting the contact page on my website:

Starting from Scratch

If you are a first time user you will need your Pearson rep to create an account for you. The first time you use MyLab to supplement a Pearson text, log in and click on Create a Course. You can then search for the author and title. Be sure that you select the correct edition – that can create a problem for students repeating the class or use it in the future. When you create the course, Pearson generates a first-day flyer for your students that provides the Course ID as well as registration instructions. At the very least, copy the Course ID so you can include it in your syllabus.

You can create your own assignments and quizzes (more on that in a future blog) or you can import assignments that the publisher created. For a first time user, starting with the pre-built assignments is a good idea. (For my algebra textbook, I hand selected each problem that ended up in my pre-build homework, flip assignments, and reflect quizzes.) You can edit the assignments, adding or deleting problems as you see fit. As you become more familiar with MyLab or with the particular textbook, you can start creating your own assignments from scratch.

Copying a Course

If you have a colleague that is willing to share, copying their course is a great alternative to creating your own. Again, you can use that as a starting point and then customize it to meet your needs. The instructor will have to provide you with a Course ID, as well as make the course available for copying.

You can also copy your own course from a previous semester. All assignments and quizzes are copied over with the same settings. You can then change the dates inside the Assignment Manager.The grading weights, uploaded documents, discussion boards, and class announcements are also copied over. If you use announcements in your class, you will have to edit the dates so you can reuse them. This can be done in the Announcements Manager. You can also delete the announcements, and simply copy them from your old course when you are ready to send them out.

This would be a good time to mention that you should keep track of changes you want to make as a semester progresses, such as problems you want to delete or add the next time you teach the class. I use Evernote to keep track of these changes, but Microsoft OneNote or a Google Doc/spreadsheet would work just as well. Once I copy the course I immediately go in and make the changes I documented the previous semester.

Setting up Course Dates

When creating your course you will need to set up start/end dates for the course, as well as for enrollment.

I start the course and enrollment on the day I create the MyLab course. I set the course end date to be about one week prior to the start of the next semester because I want my students to be able to access the material between semesters in order to prepare for the next course. As far as the enrollment end date, I typically set that to be about 7-10 days after the course actually begins. Students often begin the semester by using Pearson’s temporary 2-week access, and if you set the enrollment end date after the 2-week period some students will create a new account when making their access permanent. That creates gradebook headaches for the instructor, and ending the enrollment period earlier avoids that problem. (I speak from personal experience!)

Speaking of the temporary access, I always show my students how to find that option on the computer projected screen. It can be hard to find for some students. I also show students where to click in order to make their access permanent, and I have found that a great way to avoid problems before they happen.


I hope this is helpful for you as you get started.

  • Start by using a colleague’s course or the built-in Pearson assignments the first time you use a course, and customize it to meet your needs as you go. Each time you make an improvement to the course, you can simply copy over your edited course the next time you teach the course.
  • When you create a course it is a perfect time to make any edits to assignments and reset the assignment/due dates.
    I use Evernote to keep track of problems I want to add or delete as the semester progresses, so I have all of the changes listed in one place.
    Also set up the dates for any announcements you plan to recycle. I typically set all of them to a future date (so they cannot be seen by students) until I want to send them out.
  • Think about the start/end dates you want to apply to your course.
    For the course end date, I set that up to be about one week prior to the beginning of the NEXT semester, so students can review material over break.
    For the enrollment end date, I choose a date that is 7-10 days after the first day of class. This avoids the problem of students creating a second account by mistake.
  • If possible, walk through students how to register in MyLab in front of the class. Having a volunteer walk through the process is valuable for students to see, just be sure the projector is off when sensitive information is on the screen. Also, be sure to show students where they can click to sign up for temporary access as well as where to click to make their access permanent.

Again, if you have any questions or if you have topics you want me to address in the future, please leave a comment on this blog, reach out to me through the contact page on my website, or track me down on Twitter: @georgewoodbury.

Using Facebook Groups In Online Classes

Using Facebook Groups In Online Classes

fb group

I am teaching an online statistics class this summer, and things are going really well. One reason behind that is the Facebook group page I created for the class. Here are a couple benefits that I have observed.

  • Ability to Contact Students when Course Site is Down
    Pearson performed some scheduled maintenance on their site during the first weekend of the class. Due to some issues, it took about a day longer than expected. Without the Facebook group, my only contact with students was through MyStatLab. The group page allowed me to keep students updated on the progress, and easily reassure them about deadlines, etc.
    I encourage my students to check the group page the instant they have connection problems because it can help them to figure out whether the issue is with their computer or the entire site. I get notifications from the group page, and I am alerted the second issues show up.
  • Students Helping Students
    I encourage students to post their questions to the group page and to help each other if they are able. There have been so many times where I have received an email notification that a student posted to the group, only to find 5 or 6 comments by the time I get to the page. I am convinced that students getting timely help, as well as choosing how to explain an answer to another student, has helped with their success this summer.

Why Facebook?

I chose to use Facebook because, in my experience, it is the social media site where the most students have an account. The ability to quickly post photos & video also helps students when posting their questions.

If you are teaching online statistics, or any online class, I’d encourage you to think about using Facebook groups in your course.


Flipping Elementary Algebra

Flipping Elementary Algebra


This semester I am teaching two sections of elementary algebra using a flipped classroom model. The approach is different than the way I have flipped my statistics course, but has been very effective. I am relying heavily on MyMathLab outside the classroom.

For each section that we cover …

  • Students complete a “Flip” assignment before the material is discussed in class.
    The assignment contains conceptual videos that introduce each topic as well as videos of examples where problems are worked out.
    After students finish the videos, there are a handful of problems that they have to work through, and all of the learning aids (except “Show Example” are available. Students can try each problem as many times as they would like.
  • The “lecture” period is intended to involve active learning.
    Some days begin with a class driven recap of what they learned in the Flip assignment. I count on students to drive this discussion, stepping in only when I have something to clarify or add. I mostly ask questions and wait for students to respond.
    Most days involve group work or collaborative learning. Some days students turn in their assignments. Other days we go over answers as we go, or I ask students to share their answers and strategies at the board.
    Every day is different, and I am looking for my students to be as agile in their learning as I am in my teaching.
  • After class, students take a 5 question “Reflect” quiz that focuses on the problems that I feel are most important.
    The results on the student’s first Reflect quiz attempt load a personalized HW assignment, containing 3 exercises associated with each problem on the quiz. If a student gets a problem correct on the first quiz attempt, they get instant credit on the personalized HW for the 3 associated problems.
    Students use the personalized HW for self remediation, then they can go back and take the quiz again as many times as they would like to.

One question many have about flipping the classroom is “What do you do if students arrive unprepared?” In my experience, having the Flip assignments due for a grade motivates students to do them. Also, because they hear their classmates participating in the discussions and contributing during “lecture they feel more compelled to be prepared themselves. I have seen some of my students in the tutorial center in the morning before class starts trying to get some help to make sure they understand the material, and that can only lead to good things.

I am happy with the way things are going, and I am progressing towards less discussion at the beginning of class as my students become stronger. It gives me (& my embedded tutor) more opportunities to walk around during class and talk to students one-on-one, clarifying as we go.

The classes just took the exam on Chapter 3 (Graphing lines, equations of lines), and 61 out of 71 students passed the exam. The mean score in each class was in the high 80s, with median scores of 92 and 93 in the two classes. This test was very similar to the test I gave last semester, but the results are much stronger. On to systems of equations …

Are you flipping your classroom? I’d love to hear what you are doing. Interested in trying this approach? Please leave a comment on this blog, contact me through the contact page on my website, or reach out to me on Twitter (@georgewoodbury).

I am a mathematics instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA, as well as the author of algebra and statistics textbooks with Pearson.

Why >= How: Homework 

Why >= How: Homework 

I hear many instructors lamenting that their students are not doing their homework to the instructor’s satisfaction. If we agree that homework is an important part of the learning process, then it is important to tackle this problem. 

Do your students know why they are doing homework? Don’t be so sure that they do. Many students do it because it’s part of the game, because they are told to do it, because they get points for doing it. They should be doing homework because homework can increase their understanding. You cannot assume that they know this. 

On the first day of class I often ask my algebra or pre-algebra students “What do good students do?” They can develop quite a list of good student behaviors – coming to class every day, taking notes, doing homework, studying, etc. But when I ask why they take notes I hear crickets- everybody seems to do it, I’ve always done it, … We have a quick discussion about what notes are for, how to use them after class, and what belongs in them. 

In my class homework does not directly impact a student’s grade unless they are passing exams. I make sure that students understand that the goal of the homework is to increase their understanding, and that will be measured on the exams. Equally as important: the goal of doing homework is not to simply accumulate points. 

Because my students know why I assign homework they understand its importance. They do not view it as some sort of busywork. And they do it. And they do it well. Of course we have discussions about how to approach doing homework in such a way that students will maximize their learning, just not before they understand why they are doing it. 

#ICTCM16 – My Session & Schedule

#ICTCM16 – My Session & Schedule

Looking forward to my session on the importance of student discovery in developmental math at ICTCM this weekend in Atlanta. I will be sharing innovative approaches for getting your students involved in the discovery of material. When students are engaged and thinking the chances for understanding and success dramatically increase. The session is on Saturday morning from 9-9:30.

I will be walking through Interactive Statistics in the exhibitor’s room from 10-10:30 on Friday morning. This is the new product I worked on with Mike Sullivan. I will show how our interactive assignments get students engaged with the material and develop true conceptual understanding.

I will also be giving a walk through of my 4th edition of my combined algebra textbook from 12:15-12:45 Saturday afternoon in the exhibitor’s booth. This eText contains over 3000 new short videos – both conceptual and solutions to examples & quick check exercises.

If you want to discuss any of these ideas, or if you are interested in the place of technology in developmental math or in student motivation, track me down and say hello.

See you there – George

Problems To Use In Class

Problems To Use In Class

One thing I like to do in class is end with a short assignment to see how well students understand the material from that section. There are a couple of short quizzes that are available in the 4th edition of my combined elementary & intermediate algebra textbook.

First, in the Video Notebook (located for students inside MyMathLab) each section of the notebook ends with a 5-question self-assessment quiz that works really well for this purpose. I selected 5 problems that I feel cover the important concepts from that section. If you have access to a computer projector you can easily display the problems on the screen, but you can also write them on the board. Depending on the amount of time I have at the end of class I might ask students to volunteer to share their solutions on the board or I might simply write down the correct answers. Other times I collect them and grade them by hand.

Another similar 5-question quiz can be found in the Instructor Resource Manual, which is located inside of MyMathLab under “Instructor Resources.” These 5 questions are different that the questions mentioned above, but they can be used in the same fashion.

These quizzes are similar to the 5-question “Reflect Quizzes” that are built in to MyMathLab which are assignable & associated with a personalized homework assignment.

If you have any questions about these ideas, either leave a comment or reach out to me through the Twitter, Facebook, or Email links at the top of the blog – George

Quiz Inspections

Quiz Inspections

As my students are getting ready for their final exam, I assign a MyMathLab quiz that is connected to a personalized homework assignment. There are 36 questions on the quiz, with 136 related questions on the homework assignment. For each question a student gets right on the quiz, all related problems (typically 4) are removed from the homework assignment. This allows students to focus on the problems they struggled with, which is one of the most important factors in preparing for a cumulative exam.

Certain students have earned the right to have a quiz inspection before they turn in the quiz. When they finish the quiz, I ask them to email me before they submit the quiz. I then pull up their quiz in my grade book, and tell the students which problems are incorrect. If there are typos, I tell the students what they are. If I can tell what a student has done wrong, I let them know. Otherwise I let the student know where they can go to review that type of problem. This gives students a chance for remediation.

Only the first quiz attempt loads the homework, so getting a chance to rework the quiz before submitting it is much appreciated.

It does take a little time to do this. I had approximately 30 quiz inspections this semester. Luckily, students make many of the same types of errors, so I am able to copy & paste much of my feedback.

I’d encourage you to give this a shot. I got the idea from an instructor (Rob Knight) while playing cards at the CMC3 conference in Monterey. You never know what you are going to learn while playing cards. Rob mentioned that he did this for every quiz. As a man of moderation, I only do this for this one quiz in particular.

– George