Development of math input interface for mobile devices

14 Sep 2016

Development of math input interface for mobile devices

Online testing is useful for confirming students’ understanding of the learning subject; it has the advantage of instant feedback by automatic assessment, and students can practice by solving many online test questions by themselves. Furthermore, if questions are designed such that they are automatically generated with random variables, students can repeatedly practice different questions, which is suitable for drill practice.

Online drill testing can be delivered not only using PCs, but also using mobile devices such as smartphones to enhance the opportunities for students to practice anytime and anywhere. However, the problem of math input complexity arises for questions requiring entry of mathematical expressions as answers, rather than multiple-selection or number input types of questions. Therefore developing online test environments for e-learning for mobile devices such as smartphones will be useful to increase drill practice opportunities.

In order to provide a drill practice environment for calculus using an online math test system, such as STACK, we develop a math input interface with flick operation that can be easily used on mobile devices. The interface is developed by JavaScript and MathDox is used for describing entered mathematical expressions. When alphabetic or number keys on the interface are touched, candidate of operation appears around the touched key. By a flick in either of left, right, up or downward, one of the operations is performed to the selected key. For example, by a flick in the upward direction of the key “x”, index input state appears and user can tap the key “2” to enter the index. Then “x^2” can be entered. The number of key taps needed in the proposed math input interface is compared with direct input for several mathematical expressions. The number of taps required on a mobile device is considerably reduced using the new math input interface.


A paper following this talk appeared in the EAMS 2016 special issue of MSOR Connections.