Should and could undergraduate mathematics coursework be automated in the UK?


  • Peter R. Crompton University of East Anglia


It is over ten years since the first large scale computer algebra assessment packages were deployed for undergraduate mathematics coursework at UK universities via projects like CALM and HELM at Heriot-Watt and Loughborough Universities. Yet, to the average mathematics lecturer who is a non-expert programmer but potentially interested in introducing such methods into their teaching there still loom a number of question marks over whether these packages are effective at promoting learning at this level, and whether the necessary skills required to implement, organise and deliver such assessments are worth the time outlay and investment in training academic, postgraduate and support staff. As higher education faces new market pressures in the UK we present an overview of the functionality of these computer algebra assessment methods for undergraduate mathematics in the context of the QAA and HEFCE guidelines for undergraduate mathematics assessment design, present survey and grade data from a cohort of undergraduate mathematics students assessed in this way at Leeds University, and question whether the simplest route forward for the UK university sector is simply to commercialise such teaching innovation.