In this overview, you can take a look at what the COW does and
how to work with it. Here are some things you can find out about:
COW is an internet utility for learning and
practicing calculus. It was designed at Temple by two members of the
Temple University Mathematics Department, Gerardo Mendoza and Dan
The principal purpose of COW is to provide you, the student or interested
user, with the opportunity to learn and practice problems in
calculus (and in the future other topics in mathematics) in a
friendly environment via the internet. The most important feature
of the COW is that you get to know whether your answer is
correct almost immediately. It is as if you had a tutor looking over
your shoulder and helping you along as you work. This will be
true no matter where you are or what computer you use, as long
as it is connected to the internet and has a web browser.
The student component of COW (called the Manager) generates calculus
examples and exercises in "modules" for studying, tutoring and practice.
A number of the
modules allow you to experiment by letting you change values
or parameters in a function or graph and then see the effect.
These modules are called "hands on" modules,
and are marked with an asterisk.
The component of the COW
accessible by instructors (called the Reporter) handles assignment and
automatic grading of homework, reporting on student work and
Getting Around the COW Library
To begin a COW session, open your browser and type in the COW URL.
You will see the COW Home Page. It has a number of buttons, and some
input boxes for logging in.
The COW library is organized into books, chapters and sections,
with "modules" covering topics generally found in the corresponding part
of a calculus text. For example, Calculus Book I contains the material
normally covered in a first semester calculus course. There are also some
sample modules and explanatory pages you can see by clicking on
a button on the left side of this Overview page. To navigate
through the cow library to a chapter or a section, to display a problem,
submit an answer or to take an action of any sort, click on a button. The
buttons are generally identified by the actions they control.
During navigation, you can see the contents of a book, a chapter or a section by
clicking on the Index button.
- As a general rule, use the buttons provided by the COW to navigate
around, not the buttons of your browser; otherwise the COW may lose
track of what you were doing.
Working with the COW
The COW system is a collection of interactive calculus modules. Each
module provides the opportunity to learn and practice an individual
technique or idea, or to experiment and study the variation of a particular
structure. Algebra, graphics and numerical calculation are all part of the
For example, in a typical exercise module, a problem of a particular type is
posed. An explanation is available, and a place to type in your answer
after you have solved it in the usual way, with pencil, paper and calculator.
When you submit your answer it is checked by the COW to see if it is
completely, or in some cases partially, correct.
After a moment of
reflection, the COW will respond with a message telling you what was
right or wrong about your answer, and giving you another chance if you
got it wrong. In many cases, graphics are available when you submit the
correct answer; in others, appropriate graphics are part of the posing of the
- You must click on 'Check your answer' to make the COW aware that you
have entered an answer.
The general philosophy of the COW system is that you have many
opportunities to try a problem. If you get a problem wrong,
you will always have a chance to try again. The COW rule is this:
Within a module, the problems are color-coded according to difficulty
level: blue for easy ones,
purple for slightly harder ones
and red for the
most difficult ones. In some of the modules the first few problems are
ungraded. Ungraded problems are coded in black; right answers on these
cannot count towards a homework grade.
You can get a
problem wrong many times, but right only once!
Login, Recording and Grading
The COW is freely available for anyone to use, but only registered
students can log in for a session in which their work will be
recorded and graded.
COW has the built-in ability to keep track of the user's work and
calculate a sort of homework grade. This may be used by an instructor to
evaluate COW homework. If COW work is a required part of a calculus
course, enrolled students have to make sure this recording is turned on. If
you are an enrolled student, you will have a personal COW password;
recording is turned on by entering your last name and password at the
bottom of the COW Home Page.
If you are logged in for a recorded session, a reminder in red will show at
the top left of each screen during the session. Visitors may use the COW
facility but may not have their work recorded and graded. The reminder
looks like this:
This session is not being recorded
The first message means that the session is not recorded at all under your name
(we can't since we don't know it); if
you get the second message, you gave your name and a valid password
and your successes in solving the problems are being recorded.
This session is being recorded for ...(your name)
To turn off recording when you are through working with the COW,
exit the browser to terminate your work session.
Students enrolled in a class using COW may view their homework
assignments by clicking on the Homework button. This button appears
(during recorded sessions only) whenever you open a book (for example,
by clicking on the Calculus I Book button) or when you navigate
further down to a chapter, section or module.
To see the content of some assignments, select the ones you want to
see and click on View the assignment
To work on this homework, you can simply make note of the
modules involved, because
once you open a module, all the homework
assigned from this module will be displayed.
Use the Go to button to choose a problem to work on.
After you enter the Homework screen, grade reports on
your homework assignments are available via the
Score the Assignment button.
Each homework assignment has a due date. The work done on an
assignment must be completed by the end of the day it is due
(midnight in the Eastern time zone). When an
assignment is scored by the COW and reported to an instructor, only work
done on or before the due date will be counted.
Instructors can accomodate to individual students needing additional time
to work on a particular assignment via the special due date function.
When you work with the COW, you will make your calculations by hand
as usual, but you will be entering your answers into the computer. There
are certain simple rules you must follow when typing in numbers or
formulas. For example, how do you type in an exponent, such as "x
squared" or "square root of 3"? The answers:
Answers to questions like these can be found by clicking on
the buttons on the left side of this Overview page;
there are some help pages on typing formulas
and a chance to practice, and there are some easy sample modules to
introduce you to the COW's style.
For "x squared" type x^2 ... the ^ indicates exponents.
For "square root of 3" type sqrt(3) or 3^(1/2).
Typing Help for a little more detail and help.
Instructors in classes registered with the COW
have access to the Reporter, a convenient web utility for
assigning homework to a class, and generating reports on their work. The
Reporter's processes are described in the Instructor Manual,
accessible after logging in to the Reporter. The procedure
is intuitive and requires no
programming or special language. COW-registered instructors just fill in
boxes and click on buttons.
Once a class list has been installed in electronic form in the COW system,
its enrolled students will be registered and the instructor will be
recognized. Classlists may be
entered by instructors into the COW, and they can add and remove students
individually from their classlist.
Assignments and Reports
Beyond classlist management, the Reporter has two main functions:
When an instructor logs in to the Reporter, a list of the courses under his
or her supervision is displayed (often just one course) in the left hand
column of a table. The second column contains the list of existing
assignments for each course. The third column contains a number of
buttons controlling the various actions of the Reporter.
Creating and assigning COW homework for a class
- Reporting scores on the homework or other COW work
Instructors can create their own homework assignments and
assign them to their class. To create an assignment for a given
class, an instructor chooses a name and due date for the assignment, and
then navigates to the appropriate section of a special index. This index
lists next to each module all the problems of the module with levels of
difficulty indicated. The instructor then selects problems and saves the
assignment. It is automatically published to the students in that class.
There are built in procedures for editing, revising
or removing an assignment, or for
changing the name or due date. These procedures are quite straight-
forward; the hard part is deciding which modules and problems to assign.
Special Due Dates
The Reporter looks at the due date for an assignment when scoring it and
reporting on it, and will ignore work done after that date. Occasionally a
student has a special reason to need an extension of time to complete an
assignment, for illness or other personal matters. Using the Special due
date button on the reporter main page, an instructor can change the due
date for that student only.
This part of the Reporter utility produces reports on the students' COW
work. These reports can be viewed via a browser or e-mailed to the
instructor. There are two types of reports currently available:
In the first case, instructors can choose between a simple format which
reports only correctly done problems (at most once each) and a fuller
format which keeps track of unsuccessful work as well. A report on total
COW work will automatically be in the full report form.
- Reports on a COW assignment or on a set of assignments
- Reports on each student's total COW work up to that point
One convenient feature of the reporting utility is that reports can
be viewed and printed via a browser, or they can be e-mailed
automatically to the instructor. An e-mailed report comes in a form
which can be fed to a spreadsheet program on the instructor's local
computer, so that averages and other analysis can easily be handled.