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Topic: Math homework help on the internet - it's out there!
Replies: 1   Last Post: Jan 7, 2003 10:09 AM

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chuck grant

Posts: 1
Registered: 12/6/04
Math homework help on the internet - it's out there!
Posted: Dec 13, 2002 8:07 PM
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Math homework answers on the web?

If your students search the web for "math homework help", you may be
surprised by what they will find. They will find cheat-sites that
perform homework assignments for a fee! However, there are lots of
free, constructively helpful sites. You should be aware of these
sites and be clear with your students about what use of these sites is
OK with you. This article summarizes what students will find, and
describes one site,, in particular.

There are free bulletin-board sites where a student can post or email
homework questions and a web-teacher will respond, perhaps within an
hour or so. is one such site. Of course, in order to
be most helpful, the web-teacher needs to know the "context" of the
question, such as "what are you learning in class right now." For
example, there are lots of methods that can be applied to "factor ".

There are automatic problem solvers on the web, such as
and Here, a student can enter an expression or formula
and get an answer to polynomial factoring, multiplication, long
division, integration, and differentiation. These sites can be
helpful to students who want to confirm that they have solved a
problem correctly.

Some sites maintain a database of frequently asked questions with
associated, tutorial solutions (e.g.,
Students can search for a problem similar to one they have for
homework, in hopes that the tutorial will be relevant to their
problem. Similarly, some publishers have sites with practice problems
that can be used to prepare for tests.

Also, there is an excellent site with a hyper-linked math textbook
( Students who couldn't follow the textbook explanation
or the teacher lecture can turn here for yet another description of a
troublesome concept that may be needed to complete homework.

One site,, has tutorial solutions to the odd-numbered
homework problems in most of the popular math textbooks used in
California. A student clicks on textbook and page number, and selects
the troublesome problem number from a list on the screen. The site
instantly begins a tutorial, interactive explanation for how to do the
actual problem. The student is presented with a self-paced sequence
of explained hints and explained steps, right up to the final answer!
For many problems, the student is prompted with a question at some
point during the solution. The Hotmath tutorial solutions seek to
mimic what a tutor or teacher would say if a student asked for help on
the problem. Each solution is prepared in the context (methods and
vocabulary) of the textbook, chapter and section. Here are a few
hints and steps from a sample introductory word problem in algebra 1.
Try to imagine each hint and step being shown on an attractively
designed screen in an engaging way:

PROBLEM: Find three consecutive odd integers that add up to 105

HINT-1: Consecutive means one after another. For example, 13 and 15
are consecutive odd numbers.

STEP-1: Choose a variable to represent the smallest of the three odd
numbers, call it N.

HINT-2: How can the other two odd numbers be represented?

STEP-2: The other two odd numbers can be represented as N+2 and N+4.

And so on. It would be best to visit the site to see for yourself.

Hotmath is intended to be a resource for under-performing students who
may not have math help at home or may not have the confidence or
motivation to complete homework assignments. The "magic" of our site
is that students may come here instead of giving up, while they might
not otherwise seek help in the fear that it will be too time-consuming
or too embarrassing. What we find is that students start to build
confidence as a result of using the site, and can frequently convert
from failing students to very successful students. Hotmath is based
on over a decade of research that indicates that viewing worked
solutions is superior to struggling, especially for under-performing
students. The PressRoom page of the Hotmath website has a summary of
this research.

Hotmath has been in use now for over two years and has over 100,000
teacher-edited solutions for over 30 popular math textbooks from
pre-algebra through calculus. Last year the site was for-pay at $9
per month. This year the site is free, as we decided to try to help
as many students as possible (and seek sponsorships to cover costs).

The availability of some of these sites, especially Hotmath, raises
some questions. Is it "fair" if homework is graded and one student
uses Hotmath and another doesn't? Will students mindlessly rely on
Hotmath rather than thinking for themselves? Is it "cheating" if a
student relies on a Hotmath solution to complete an assignment?
Hotmath only answers odd-numbered problems for most textbooks, so
teachers can assign a mix of problems for practice versus assessment
and challenges. Virtually every teacher we have spoken with favors
Hotmath usage after some classroom experience, and feels that the
benefits of Hotmath availability far outweigh the risks.

Another fairness issue is that many students still do not have the
Internet at home. These students must be informed about all their
options for free Internet use in your community.

Our recommendations for teacher usage of Hotmath are as follows:
1) Use Hotmath in class to reduce prep time for classroom examples.
2) Assign a mix of 2/3 odds and 1/3 evens for homework.
3) Require that each student visits the site so they can see that help
is available 24/7
4) Give extra credit for any student who finds an error in a Hotmath

One gratifying aspect of our site is the success we seem to be having
with ESL students who may have trouble understanding their teacher or
the textbook explanations. We keep our explanations succinct in order
to keep students engaged, and this seems to help.

Testimonials submitted to Hotmath are voluminous and unanimous in
their message: Hotmath helps students who were previously failing, to
earn honor grades. We hear this time and again, and hope you will
visit and form your own opinion.

Oh, by the way, I'm involved with Hotmath as you may have guessed by

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