What Everyone *Really* Thinks About MyMathLab (With #Protips)
High schools and universities around the world have adopted MyMathLab as a way for students to do and turn in math homework online. It is a solution to a problem that didn’t really exist, and lots of students see it in the same way that they might see a program designed to grade essays—it just doesn’t work. Grading requires a human touch—and MyMathLab comes off as a pseudo artificial intelligence that wants you to fail your calculus class. Sure, a lot of math problems have one answer, but Pearson (you know, the people that write all those expensive text books you have to buy and also write all those standardized tests you have to take?), also thinks they can figure out how to grade students on whether or not their “work” is done correctly. That’s all well and good—if it actually worked 100% of the time. Even a quick Google search of “MyMathLab” will generate an entire sub-Reddit devoted to cringe-inducing MyMathLab stories. Anyone who’s ever used it will tell you that it has…bugs. Sure, we’ll call them bugs. Features that just don’t work. Or some features that work too well—like marking a problem wrong and then when the answer is shown, it is identical to what you’ve entered. The harsh reality is, however, that schools are going to keep on using this program, especially as more and more classes trend towards online homework submission. That means that students around the world just have to…deal with it. In order to make “dealing with it” a little less of a horror, we’ve got a list of tips and tricks that should help.
- Marking something incorrect when it is correct. What’s the difference between four over one and four? Realistically? Nothing. But if the program wants you to put in four over one and you put in four, that’s a wrong answer. You’ll see situations like this rampant in the forums devoted specifically to hating on MyMathLab. And for good reason. No human grader would ever look at that answer and mark it wrong, especially because four over one is a nonsensical answer, and four is an answer that a rational human would put. When it comes to situations like this, you’re just going to have to appeal to your instructor for the points.
- No keyboard shortcuts. If you need to input a fraction, you used to have to use their fraction-specific formatting buttons in order to make sure that the fraction was entered correctly. Now, there are plenty of keyboard shortcuts, actually intuitive ones that can make it a lot fast to enter into a computer what really should just be written by hand and turned into your teacher like the good old days. For example, you can just use the / key to create a simple fraction. You can hit enter to enter your answer and advance to the next question. You can enter exponents by using the circumflex key (^).
- Use the built in helps. Because the developers have no doubt discovered that there’s nothing worse than trying to solve complex calculations on a computer that is limited to the track pad or mouse and keyboard, there are some helps actually built into the software. For example, you could view an example, which lets you look at other problems in the same vein—seriously helpful if you’re stuck as to how to proceed. The help me solve this feature is, according to Pearson (so who knows how accurate this is), like a tutor walking you through the problem.
- Do it on paper first. Anyone who has ever taken a math class (and that’s any person over the age of six), knows that math is best done, by hand, on a physical sheet of paper. Until the day that computers are advanced enough that we can use our tablets exactly like a pencil on a sheet of paper and the computer can process what is being written (even by shaky-handed seven-year-olds), it’s probably best to solve the problem on paper first, and then input the steps onto the computer. If you’re one of those people that has a hard time staring at a computer screen, this is your best plan of action.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your instructor or report problems. The course instructor, whether your teacher or a professor can change your score. If MyMathLab marks you wrong on something—and, come on, this is going to happen—don’t be afraid to make a note of it and email your instructor or meet with him in person to discuss it. If you did the work and got the answer right, you deserve those points and the instructor can give them back to you.
That’s the long and short of it. We all know how horrible MyMathLab (and all its variants really are) and it’s not going to get easier anytime soon as more and more schools adapt MML as their learning management solution but if these tips aren’t enough, you can always go ahead and hire a math wiz kid to help you with your MyMathLab… Now there’s an idea, right?