
Project Overview Mark Bookout 21 March 2001 
Introduction
Beginning in 1998, the UMR
Computing and Information Services (CIS) department began exploration of visual
indexing as applied to online instructional systems. The BrainTrax
development team created online instruction for Algebra and Calculus. The Algebra BrainTrax system
alone provides over 350 web pages of tightly encapsulated, high quality
mathematical instruction, bound together in visual context. In addition to content, the Algebra Brain
includes an Interactive Example and Testing System (IETS) that provides
students with a stepby step problemsolving mechanism. The BrainTrax
development team is also creating an interactive game mechanism that will be
used in conjunction with the Algebra Brain.
It will reinforce the algebraic concepts while immersing the students in
a fun environment.
Fall 1998 Work begins in earnest to produce a viable framework for visual indexing instructional systems.
Spring
1999 A prototype mockup is tested
within the St. James schools. Student
response is positive.
Summer
1999 Work begins on a visual index to
support UMR's Algebra and Trigonometry classes in conjunction with Math
Department approval.
Fall
1999 Algebra and Trigonometry
visual indexes reach a level of stability.
Students are polled and respond with a request for Calculus support.
Spring
2000 The Calculus visual index
development timetable is advanced to produce a Calculus I (Math 8) visual index
in conjunction with the class. End of
semester student surveys indicate 62% of respondents (or about 25% of the
spring Math 8 class) desire visual indexes to support their future classes.
Summer
2000 Demand for the BrainTrax system increased so that we were required to support creation of a
Calculus II visual index (Math 21), increased Flash video production for
Calculus I and II, and creation of an online Interactive Example/Testing System
(IETS) aimed specifically at mathematics.
Winter
2001 Due to increased demand for
Algebra support, the BrainTrax team overhauls the Algebra Brain to be accessible
to students from 8th grade Algebra on up through collegelevel Algebra.
To
date, students attending UMR have performed most of the labor on the BrainTrax project. These students work
under the direction of Mark Bookout, of the CIS department. The Mathematics and Statistics department has
contributed significant funds for the project, as well as significant faculty
time. The Computer Science department
has also contributed funds for support of the IETS; the CIS department has
contributed the remainder of the funds.
Future Vision
(present through summer 2001)
Currently, the BrainTrax project has the following objectives:
1. 
Increase the effectiveness
of the Algebra and Trigonometry visual indexes to include a wider audience. 
2. 
Stimulate learning through
interactive realworld examples. 
3. 
Insert as many interactive
examples as possible into the new IETS. 
4. 
Insert "instant
information" for key formulas and concepts across all math visual
indexes. 
5. 
Work with high school
instructors to develop materials for general use in Missouri schools. 
6. 
Certify student performance
levels in algebra. 
Implementing the Vision
Instructors
at higher learning institutions (e.g. University of Missouri – Rolla) have
noticed a disturbing trend among incoming freshmen. They have determined that many incoming
freshmen are inadequately prepared for the level of mathematics instruction
offered at UMR and therefore do poorly in upper level mathematics classes, most
notably Calculus. The failure is not
necessarily due to a lack of understanding of calculus concepts, but appears to
be based in a poor grounding in the fundamentals of lower level courses such as
Algebra and Trigonometry.
To address this concern,
the BrainTrax team adapted visual indexing technology while creating the Algebra
Brain. The BrainTrax
Brainswebdelivered learning aidstarget those students who are struggling
with understanding mathematical subject material. So far the BrainTrax team
has targeted Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus as being primary candidates
for inclusion in visual indexes. These
are the fundamental math courses required at any technological institute. Students who are interested in pursuing engineering
or the sciences will be required to take these courses at some point during
their higher education. Those who are
better prepared in high school will most likely be more successful at the
collegiate level.
A
recent survey of Calculus I students at UMR indicated that fully 54% learned
something about calculus from the BrainTrax visual index system that they did not learn in
class. One of the major benefits of
using the Calculus Brain is that it increases comprehension and retention of
the material. Similar or greater
benefits are expected from the new and improved Algebra Brain.
Although
the BrainTrax system is currently only oriented towards mathematics, the same
framework can be redirected towards the development of other subject areas,
particularly science or even history.
Finally,
the BrainTrax team and the Department of Mathematics and Statistics are jointly
interested in pursuing fielding mathematical visual indexes into area high
schools. This activity has three
objectives:
1. Increase
comprehension of algebra and trigonometry within students at the high school
level.
2. Prepare collegebound students to be successful during their first semester.
3. Support
Students who receive the
benefit of all three objectives will be better prepared to meet the challenges
of higher education, particularly in the fields of science and technology.
Several
UMR faculty members have supported the BrainTrax project
in various ways. These faculty members
include:
Dr. Henry Metzner – Engineering Management
Dr.
Leon Hall – Mathematics & Statistics
Dr.
Stephen Clark – Mathematics & Statistics
Dr.
Matt Insall – Mathematics & Statistics
Dr.
Richard Hall – Psychology
Mr.
Tom Akers – Mathematics & Statistics
Mrs.
Mary Kirgan – Mathematics & Statistics
Additionally,
the following public school teachers are also involved with reviewing the
current visual indexes and with developing instructional methods that
incorporate the visual index technology in the classrooms of public schools:
Steve
Blakely − Rolla
Eddie
Keilbach − Tuscumbia
Roberta
Rudolph − Platte City
Herbert
Turner − Waynesville
Kathryn
White − Rolla
The graphs below illustrate
the results of survey taken by Calculus I students during their final exam at
the end of the Winter Semester 2000. The
first two graphs indicate that over half of the students who returned the
survey found the content in the Calculus I Brain useful to some degree. The final graph is a very strong indicator
that many students would like to benefit from visual indexing technology in
other classes, such as physics, chemistry, or even other mathematics courses.
Note: The Calculus I Brain was identified to the
responding students as "the Calc Brain".