Math 127: Using OWL

To use the OWL system, you will need to use a computer with an internet connection.  If you do not have your own computer, there are several places on campus that you can use.  One place, late afternoons and evenings, is the Mathematics & Statistics Resource Center, LGRT (the tower) 110; OWL-specific help is available there.  If you need help finding and using a machine, please see the OIT Help Desk on the first floor of LGRC (the lowrise, not the tower).

For specific information about OWL in Math 127, see the About OWL Homework page.

Start Your Web Browser

  • Use Netscape or Internet Explorer version 4 or higher.
  • Go to http://owl.oit.umass.edu/ .
  • Select the Mathematics (UMass Amherst) link.

Logging On

  • Enter your 8-digit student id number for the Login.
  • Enter your last name for the Password.
  • Click on the LOG IN button. (You may have to scroll down the page.)
  • If you see the Invalid Login page, read the information provided and then TRY AGAIN.
  • If you continue to have problems, click on REPORT IT.

First Time Information

  • Carefully read the Welcome page, then click CONTINUE.
  • Enter your e-mail and phone so that you can be contacted about your message submissions.
  • Click CONTINUE.

Working on Your Assignments

  • On the Course Menu page check that you are rostered in the correct OWL course.
  • If it is incorrect, click Add/Switch Class to the left and follow the directions.
  • Click on the underlined name (i.e. link) for your course.
  • After reading the Course Notes page, press the View Assignments button.
  • Click on the link of the name of the assignment on which you want to work.
    IMPORTANT: Do the Tutorial first to learn to use OWL!  (This counts toward your grade.)
  • Click on the link for the unit on which you want to work.
  • Read the question, type in your answer(s), and then click CHECK ANSWER.
  • Your score, the correct answer(s), and feedback will be shown. (You may have to scroll down the page.)
  • When you are ready to move on to another question, either:
    • click Prev or Next to the left,
    • click Unit Menu to the left to return to the complete unit list,

    or choose a question number link from the status bar at the top of the page.

  • Each unit has a mastery value.  You must get this number of problems correct in one attempt at the unit to master it. If you have not mastered a unit, you may select it again to receive a new set of problems.  You must master all the units to master the assignment.
  • When you are done working, return to the Unit Menu and then click Current Assign.  Make sure that your score for the assignment is what you think it is.  Work done after the due date will not improve your score.
  • Click the Logout button on the left side of the page to exit the OWL system.


  • Click Past Due Assign to see assignments whose due date has past.
  • Click Course Notes to see any instructor announcements.
  • Click Contact Info to change your email and phone information.
  • Click Help for the Userís Manual including the online tutorial, Browsing for Beginners.
  • Click Send Message to report a problem or ask a question.


Some of the questions in the OWL system that you are using require the use of the symbol font.  If some questions do not seem to be displaying correctly, you may need to make some changes to your computer.  There are two issues involved in getting symbol font characters to display correctly: making sure that the font is installed and setting the correct character set encoding in your browser.

Symbol Font Installation

Most PC and Macintosh computers should already have the symbol font installed. You can check this using any application that allows you to change the font for items that you type (word processor for example).  Simply look through the list of available fonts to check that Symbol is in the list.  If it is not listed, youíll need to find and install the font.

Character Set Encoding

Character set encoding is a browser setting.  The required setting depends on the type of computer you are using.  Finding the location in the browser to examine and change the setting depends on whether you are using Mozilla, Netscape, or Internet Explorer and which version.  In general, look under either the View or Options menu for the item Character Set, Encoding, or Document Encoding.


The character set encoding setting should be Western European (Windows) for Internet Explorer and Western(ISO-8859-1) for Netscape.


The current value for this will probably be Western(Latin1) or Western(ISO-8859-1). Change this to Western(Mac) or Western(MacRoman).

  • For other web sites you may need to change the character set encoding back to what it was for their pages to display properly.
  • Unfortunately, there are some Macs where this still doesnít fix the problem. In that case, you may need to try another browser or a higher version of the browser that you are using.

Unix (including Linux)

Symbol fonts may need to be enabled for Netscape running under X:

  1. Edit your ~/.Xdefaults file and add the following line
    Netscape*documentFonts.charset*adobe-fontspecific:  iso-8859-1
  2. Execute the command: csh> xrdb .Xdefaults
  3. Restart Netscape

You may also need to change your character set encoding setting to Western(ISO-8859-1) if it isn't already.

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