Hotmaths - usability challenged

By Murray Bourne, 19 May 2007

[UPDATE: (Jan 2013) I went back to have another look at HOTMaths. See my current impressions in HOTMaths Revisited.]

HOTmaths is "interactive mathematics online", an offering from Australia. Their blurb claims:

Designed as a complete mathematics learning system to support teachers and students in the classroom and with the homework process, HOTmaths is also a very effective and inexpensive home tutoring system.

I have gone back several times to check out this site, since my first experience was really bad and I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.

On my first attempt, it took 22 seconds to load the homepage (I don't mean fully load - I mean before I could see anything at all). That's pretty bad when you are using a broadband connection.

Many of the pages are all Flash - with no ordinary HTML text, making search through the lessons very difficult. Why does it matter? The majority of Web users find what they need via search and then quickly scan for information. If I can't search and I can't scan, I usually go elsewhere.

The "hot" flame on the homepage (presumably representing the heat of the moment) is very irritating and not user friendly. The menus for Students, Parents and Teachers only appear if you "flame over" them. Usability studies show that this is not the way.

It told me endlessly (via annoying popups) that I must have Adobe PDF Reader. But I use Foxit to read PDF - there was no option to tell it to stop annoying me with the message.

I checked out one of the demos (on 3D "nets" for making boxes and the like), which took 59.63 seconds to load. The total file size of that page was 272 kB. How do students on dialup get on?

The demo said:

Click "Show Me" to see solids unfolding to form nets.

I clicked and nothing happened.

In the middle of "Looking at Nets", one page took 1.57 minutes to load and was 497 kB.

The Scorcher is apparently popular. The blurb says:

Use Scorcher to develop your competence and confidence with fundamental mathematics.

Browser Problems

The alignment of part of the page has problems in Firefox:

join FF

In IE, the alignment is better, but that "System requirements" link is almost impossible to read:

Join IE

More Recent Experience

To be fair (as I said above), I thought I should have another few goes. Page load times have improved, but that homepage is still there (flamingly annoying...).

Are any of you using HOTmaths? What are your opinions?

See the 7 Comments below.

7 Comments on “Hotmaths - usability challenged”

  1. Margaret loomes says:

    I have been using HOTmaths with my students for the past couple of years and find it a fantastic resource. I use "widgets" in the classrom to demonstrate concepts and take the students to the computer lab on a regular basis for individual work as well.
    My colleagues and I set some homework from the site and find that most of our students have no problems at all with using HOTmaths from home.

    When a problem has arisen in the past, the "Contact us" section of the site enables both students and teachers to receive feedback from the site's writers very promptly.

    I teach Mathematics to boys aged 12 to 18 at a school in Sydney, Australia. This year we are using HOTmaths with our Years 7, 8 and 9 students. When more lessons are written, we hope to extend our use to our Year 10 students as well.

  2. Murray says:

    Thank you Margaret for giving your experiences with HOTMaths. I'm glad to hear that you find it useful.

    The experience I had using the freely available demos in HOTMaths was not so good. Maybe the sections that you pay for work better.

  3. Don Colless says:

    Hi Zac, I'd love to give you a HOTmaths Unlimted account to play with and some to use with students, or ask you to try Scorcher, our mental arithmetic skills competition provided as a free service to anyone wanting a challenge. You might also like to read a smaple of comments by a maths teacher at [no longer available] Please get in touch so that we can show you some of the wealth of 'working mathematically' resources being developed based on input by students, parents and teachers. It's a pity your initial impressions weren't so positive. That's not the sort of feedback we get at all. I've been getting comments like 'HOTmaths has changed the whole way I think about teacher mathematics' and just last week... 'my students love hot maths and the scorcher is a source of great competition between my unenthusiastic Year 12 VCAL numeracy students.'

    Best wishes

  4. Murray says:

    Hi Don

    Thanks for your comment.

    I went back to the HOTMaths site just now and the load times were significantly improved from my first and subsequent trials.

    For interest, I went back to the Solid/Nets example lesson and tried the "Show me" again.

    (Above, I wrote:

    The demo said:

    Click “Show Me” to see solids unfolding to form nets.

    I clicked and nothing happened.)

    The same thing just now - nothing happened!

    But I get it now (having had a look at the HTML code). That "Show me" button is supposed to load the widget in the right half of the screen - but the widget is already there in the right half, so for the user, there is a point of confusion where it seems the link doesn’t work. Hence my question about the usability...

    Anyway, I want to give this a fair trial (this is, after all, why I came back to HOTMaths a few times when I first wrote this post in May last year. I was allowing for network congestion).

    So yes, please send me trial details (I’ll email you separately) and I’ll give it a spin.

  5. Josh says:

    People of the internet,
    I am a student using hotmaths currently, and let me just say its really terrible. There have been many errors where the answer is done correctly but it is "incorrect". Putting a space in front of your answer = automatic wrong. Not having a capital letter = automatic wrong. Scorchers are wasteful, walkthroughs don't really teach you anything and the actual questions dont help you learn at all. The teacher is no judging our mathematical skills by looking at our progress table and seeing how many scorchers we've done. Hotmaths is a short cut for idiodic teachers and schools who don't really want to do their job as a maths teacher. I have no respect for the site whatsoever and I hope any teacher that stumbles upon has the brain to realise it is the shittiest way to "teach", if you can even qualify it as that - getting paid to shove hotmaths in our faces and tell us to learn by ourselves. screw you hotmaths. You teachers are oblivous to the fact your students hate hotmaths so get a clue. kthanksbai.

  6. nishi says:

    I'm a student using hotmaths but i cannot activate it so whenever I go on it I have to keep on typing the validation code and it says that someonev else has already got the same account and stuff, i told my teacher and she says that it happend loads of times to others but I'm a little worried.
    does anyone know what to do about this?

  7. Kelly says:

    Woowww, Josh. After reading your post, I can see why HotMaths may not work for you and why it does not teach you anything.

    I have to say that HotMaths gives students the opportunuity to be in charge of their learning, by targeting topics individually, rather than having the teacher lecturing from the front at all times and ticking off the box of teaching.

    I'd definitelly recomend it to Maths teacher. My students love it, and, when not, they are offered an alternative homework style.


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