Nottingham Maths Virtual Open Day

We are now beginning to set up a University of Nottingham Maths Virtual Open Day for those who can’t make it to the real thing, or who want another look at some of the talks.
See for Echo360 recordings of two of the big talks, including my Sample Lecture on Pure Mathematics (which is really about half of the first lecture from my Foundations of Pure Mathematics module).

In my sample lecture I ran a number of in-class votes, where the audience used their mobile devices to submit a very simple Google form each time. You can watch some my sample lecture to see this in action.

Sample Lecture on Pure Mathematics

Today and tomorrow are Open Days at the University of Nottingham.

I just gave a Sample Lecture on Pure Mathematics, in which I used my Google forms voting system. This worked fairly well, except for a few teething problems. I did record the session, but I am hoping tomorrow’s session will be smoother, in which case I will release that one.

Here is the unannotated PDF file I used for my talk today:  PDF file of sample lecture


Using Google forms for in-class real-time student response analysis

I am looking for a simple IT replacement for my in-class voting system (which currently uses coloured card). I have been looking for something as simple as Socrative, but without the 50 user limit.

I found that some people have been using Google forms, so I set one of these up to see whether it reallly did work in real-time.

You can see a sample form at

You can easily view the responses to your form in a spreadsheet, or a summary of the responses as a pie chart.(but make sure you have bookmarked the links you want or used or similar to make a link that is easy to tremember!).

Here is a picture of a zoomed-in portion of the summary page, which is what I got from a “multiple choice” (radio button) question. (If you use checkboxes instead, so students can give multiple answers, it looks like you get a bar chart instead.)



You can get to this summary either from editing the form via Responses -> Summary of responses or from the response data spreadsheet via Form -> Show summary of responses

The link may enable you to see results from the current sample form, if I have set it up right!

My idea was to stick to a form with one question and then use it again and again. When I made the question a “required” question I hit a snag though: my own android phone was unable to respond! Or rather, no matter what I tried, the browser told me that I had failed to answer a required question on the form. Maybe this is a known bug or feature, but it looks to be safer not to make the question a “required” question.

The next snag I hit was on how to re-use the same form. I tried deleting the data in the spreadsheet, but this had no effect on the summary of the responses. (With the new Google spreadheets the response data is stored in the form.)

I spent some time searching on Google, and found a number of complicated methods that would take too long to  do during a class (where you might have several questions), I even considered making lots of different spreadsheets, but it seems to me better if you can stick to one easy-to-remember URL.

Finally I found!msg/docs/bpjj6yFdyGk/fsDak6bff68J

from where I quote the simple solution:

open your form and click Responses > Delete all responses

That post also suggests

then click Responses > Change response destination and create a new response sheet

but that isn’t necessary for me, because I don’t really need to keep a record of the responses to the question.

I will try this system out at the forthcoming University of Nottingham Open Days.

Gyration Air Mouse Elite

My departrment (actually the School of Mathematical Sciences) has now bought me a new “toy”: a Gyration Air Mouse Elite.

This will allow me to wander around the room, while still controlling my digital pointer (Cursor Attention at the moment, though the Air Mouse software does also come with its own digital pointer that I could use).

The mouse has programmable buttons (once you install the software). The behaviour of the buttons varies with “context”. By default this means the buttons behave differently if you are using PowerPoint, a web browser, a media player, or none of these. This is very clever, but I may delete (or deactivate) some of these extra contexts in the end, as I don’t want to get any unexpected surprises when I am trying to use the programmed buttons to toggle the digital pointer on and off (etc.).

Controlling the cursor with the mouse in the air does need a little practice, but I am rather impressed with this device. I expect to use this when recording my lectures next year. (Note that laser pointers are not helpful when recording screencasts! And I’m a bit scared of laser pointers anyway ….)



In-class voting systems

For the last two years I have been using coloured card voting packs for in-class voting on multiple choice questions. This has worked quite well, but it may possibly be better to use modern technology.

With a large class (250+) it can be inconvenient to issue “clickers” to everyone at the start of the class and collect them back in at the end (though some colleagues say they do not find this a problem). One solution here is give every student a clicker when they arrive, but this does cost money.

Another possibility is to look for suitable ways to allow students to vote using their smartphones/tablets. I am hoping to find a way to do this, though some colleagues have expressed the opinion that students are likely to be distracted by these devices if they are out in front of them during the class.

The simplest free solution here for what I want looks to be Socrative (, but I am worried that this may become unstable if more than 50 students enter the same virtual room.

There are many other systems available, but most are far more complicated than I want. I just want to be able to get real-time results for votes on multiple choice questions with, say, up to 5 answers.

Of course it would be good if students could vote for more than one option, as I sometimes like to ask “which of the following are correct”. But I could live without that if I had to.

Maybe what I need is something like a “local socrative server”?



May Fest 2014

The University of Nottingham’s May Fest is this coming Saturday (May 10th), 11-5. This is always great fun!

If you are in the area I suggest that you drop in.

See for full details.

G14FUN Functional Analysis on YouTube

Sally Hanford has kindly now added the rest of my G14FUN Functional Analysis videos to YouTube.

YouTube links sometimes go out of date, but at the time of writing the G14FUN PlayList is at: