Thesis subject

Working on PHP-Sat this weekend got me a response on Sunday-evening in #stratego. I was told that it was nice to see some more progress on PHP-Sat again. It's very nice to receive such feedback!

What this comment also expressed is that the past month the actual progress on PHP-Sat was not really visible. I have mostly been working on the website and on the GrammarEngineeringTools. Two things that will improve PHP-Sat, but not directly.

But I have to admit, there was another activity that quickly filled up my time:
My thesis-proposal.

I have mentioned before that the subject of my thesis is interesting (of course!), but didn't not explain what it is about. So here is the short version of the goal:
By combining techniques from the field of term-rewriting, strategies and generic programming we aim at supplying a generic framework that supports the generation of rule-feedback with minimal effort.

After reading this, the first question would probably be 'what is rule-feedback?'
Well, imagine a tool that allows you to solve a mathematical exercise such as:
1/2 + 2*(4/5)
by rewriting the expression in little steps. So the first rewrite would evaluate the multiplication which result in:
The second rewrite will perform the addition and will lead to the answer of:
(Notice that the rules I applied here are actually a set of combined rules, adding two fractions with different denominator takes more then one step.)

When the application of a rule is incorrect, for example the answer 9/5 for the expression above, feedback will need to be provided. Useful feedback would help a student to understand the mistake that has been made. In this case it could be something like:
You have added two fractions without considering the denominators. Remember that fractions can only be added when the denominators are equal!

I have done quite a bit of research on the feedback that is currently given in educational tools. The conclusion is that it can definitely be improved and certainly needs to be made easier to define. By supplying a generic framework the task of implementing a complete tool is simplified into the specification of the domain.

How this specification can be done, and more details on how the generation of feedback will work, will be explained in some later blogs. I just wanted to let you know what I was doing all day :)

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