About Homeworks in Math 125
Fall 2004

last update: Thursday, 16 September 2004

This semester, we are trying out a new system of doing homeworks in MAT125. We'll be doing most of the problems via a web interface provided by the publisher of the textbook. This has the advantage of giving you feedback about whether problems are right and wrong immediately, so you don't have to wait a week or two for graded problems to come back. It also means that problems which are graded by a person can be given more individual, careful consideration. At least that is the plan.

Of course, as always happens with technology, there are drawbacks. We're trying to minimize these, but there will be the inevitable growing pains.

Most of the problems correspond to those in the textbook. Which problems they are appear on the schedule page, so you can get an idea how to work before you go to the computer, and be able to ask about them in recitation. However, most of the problems have slight variations for each person, so you can't just work the problems from the book and type in the answers directly.

If you don't have a computer, you can use the ones in the University SINC sites, or most public computers such as those in libraries.

This system doesn't work well with customized versions of Internet Explorer, such as the browser for AOL. Many people have had good success using the free Mozilla browser. I use Mozilla Firefox to set up the assignments, and haven't had any problems.

The first thing you have to do is to get set up with the system if you haven't done so already. Here's how:

  1. Go to the iLRN site and click on First Time Users.
  2. Put "Stony Brook" in the search box, click Search, then select SUNY - STONY BROOK from the list on the right.
  3. On the next page, enter the key
    where it wants the Course Access Code, and enter your email address.
  4. On the next page, specify a password.
  5. On the last page, fill out the rest of the information. It is important you give your name and student ID number correctly so that you can get credit for your work.
  6. Finally, when you log in, the system will check that you have an appropriate Java plug-in installed, and have popup windows enabled.

It may seem that you have to do your homeworks at the computer. This is not the case (although you certainly can if you wish). You can log in, print out your homework assignment, do the work, and enter the answers later. Here's how to do this (it isn't obvious):

  • From the page where you select the assignment you want to do, click the Take button if you haven't started the assignment yet. When the page comes up, click Start.
  • When the first problem comes up, if you don't have time to do it now, click end assignment. You'll be asked if you are sure. Say you want to end.
  • Now you see a page telling you what you have done so far, and in the upper right is Print Assignment as Taken. Click that.
  • A new window opens that you can print out, giving you all the problems (and your answers so far, of which there are none). Then you can log out, do the problems on paper, and come back later to enter them.
  • If you've already started an assignment, you can skip right to the third step by clicking on the details link from the selection list.

The assignments are set up so you can do "unlimited retakes", which means you can work on the assignment for a while, then leave and come back later. If you submit an answer and get it wrong, you get another try, although you lose part of a point for each wrong answer you give.

Homeworks done after the due date get at most half credit. The amount of credit awarded goes down each week after the due date. It is better to work on the problems well before the due date, both because you'll learn better and because you'll save yourself headaches when the inevitable computer glitch happens.

Yes, I know you can fake out the system and cheat to improve your score without knowing how to do the problems. But the only person you are scamming when you do that is yourself. The point of the homework is so that you learn how to do the problems, not so you can get your measly 10%. If you don't learn how to do the work, you won't pass the exams, and the homework grade won't help much (is a D so much better than an F?)

Give the system an honest try, and we'll see how it goes. If it turns out to be a disaster after the first several weeks, we can return to the old way of doing things.

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