Math Sites Offer Helpful Homework Solutions

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If students and teachers search the Web for "math homework help," you may be surprised by all of the free, constructively helpful sites that are available. Some of these useful online math resources include:

  • Mrs. Glosser's Math Goodies (www.mathgoodies.com/homework) is a free bulletin-board Web site where students can post or e-mail homework questions to a "Web" teacher.
  • QuickMath (www.quickmath.com) and Calc101.com (www.calc101.com) are automatic problem-solving sites that let students enter an expression and get an answer to math problems dealing with polynomial factoring, multiplication, long division, integration and differentiation.
  • The Math Forum @ Drexel's Ask Dr. Math
    (www.mathforum.org/dr.math) maintains a database of math problems with tutorial solutions that lets students search for problems similar to those on their homework.
  • S.O.S. Mathematics (www.sosmath.com) acts as a hyperlinked math textbook. Students who have trouble following either the textbook explanation or their teacher's lecture can visit this site for an additional explanation of a difficult concept that they may need to understand in order to complete a homework assignment.

Quitting Is Not an Option

Hotmath (www.hotmath.org) offers free tutorial solutions to the odd-numbered homework problems from most popular math textbooks. Currently, the site houses over 100,000 teacher-edited solutions for more than 30 popular math textbooks from pre-algebra through calculus. To begin, a student simply clicks on a textbook and page number, selects the troublesome problem number from a list on the screen, and the site instantly begins an interactive explanation for how to solve the problem. The student is then presented with a self-paced sequence of explained hints and steps, right up to the final answer.

The Hotmath tutorial solutions seek to mimic what a tutor or teacher would say if a student asked for help on the problem. Each solution is prepared in the context of the textbook, chapter and section by using the same methods and vocabulary. The Hotmath site also is intended to be a useful resource for underperforming and ESL students who may not have math help at home, may not have the confidence or motivation to complete homework assignments, or may not fully understand their teacher or textbook.

The purpose of math homework-help Web sites like Hotmath is to provide students with an anonymous online forum for help that also discourages quitting. These sites also assist students who would otherwise be reluctant to seek help for fear that it will be too time-consuming, too embarrassing or too expensive. We have found that students start to build confidence as a result of using these sites and can frequently convert from failing to being a very successful student. In addition, according to a white paper in the "Press Room" section of the Hotmath Web site, "Providing students with worked out examples is more effective than the conventional math instruction method."

Resource Availability and Usage

The availability of homework-help Web sites raises some questions: Is it fair if one student uses a site for help and others don't? Will students mindlessly rely on these sites for help rather than thinking for themselves? In response, Hotmath only answers odd-numbered problems for most textbooks, so teachers can assign a mix of problems.

Hotmath recommends resource site usage as follows:

  1. Use homework-help Web sites in class to reduce prep time for classroom examples.
  2. Assign a mix of two-thirds odd problems and one-third evens for homework.
  3. Require that each student visits a resource site at least once, so he or she can see that help is available anytime, anywhere.
  4. Give extra credit for any student who finds an error in a site's solution.
  5. Inform students of all options for free Internet access within their community.

Chuck Grant, Ph.D., CEO
Hotmath Inc.
chuck@hotmath.org)

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2003 issue of THE Journal.

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