A web site for the developing language teacher

What website counters can tell us
- Operation MathLog revisited
by Rolf Palmberg
- 2

All web pages (other than the opening web page) have deliberately been left ‘orphan’ (i.e. they are not linked to other web pages) and cannot be found by search engines. Therefore, at least in theory, for any given web page, each visitor must have seen and solved all preceding language tasks. The number of visitors was therefore expected to drop gradually from the opening web page towards the closing web page of the maze. This assumption proved to be true; yet the decrease in the number of visitors was unexpectedly strong. Only 44 visitors solved the second task and continued into the parallel routing system of the maze (where visitors are required to choose one of two possible routes; see Palmberg 2006b for more details).

The number of visitors continued to drop towards the closing web page. 24 visitors went missing in the parallel routing system, thus producing an average dropout rate of three to four visitors per task. By the time the visitors had reached the web page containing the final task, their number had been reduced to ten. Only seven visitors completed the final task and continued to the closing web page. They represented the following countries: Finland (3), Israel (2), Australia (1), and Canada (1).

Country lists as such are of course uninteresting since finding the opening page of the maze is largely a matter of chance in the first place. Similarly, the entry-page information provided by AddFreeStats was of interest for the present purposes only concerning the opening web page. For all other web pages, as explained above, visitors have to enter their URLs manually, a fact that – inevitably and not unexpectedly – always resulted in the same information: “no referring URL”.

The visiting dates and times, on the other hand, are much more informative (assuming of course, that the information has been registered correctly by the statistics service). By comparing the date and time of the opening web page with those of the closing web page of the maze, one can easily calculate the task-solving timetable of individual visitors. The Australian visitor, for example, solved all tasks in a single go (it took him or her one hour and 36 minutes), whereas the Israeli visitors preferred to solve a task every now and then. More specifically, one of them completed the maze in seventeen days and the other one in twenty days.

In conclusion one can state that the information provided by the AddFreeStats statistics service shows that Operation MathLog is indeed operational and that it is possible to figure out the various URLs all the way to the closing web page. It is equally obvious that the statistics may be blurred by the variety of ways in which IP addresses are allocated to individual users or computers by different host servers. Nor can the statistics service know – or even be expected to know – whether or when returning visitors are in fact using computers that are hosted by entirely different organisations in other cities or countries. The biggest question of them all, unfortunately, remains unanswered: why do only two or three per cent of all visitors complete all tasks and reach the closing web page of the maze?



Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences. The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence Reframed. Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: Basic Books.

Palmberg, R. Operation MathLog.

Palmberg, R. (2006a). “Operation MathLog: An internet-based EFL maze for mathematical-logical learners”. In 2006 International Conference. Beyond the Horizon: Extending the Paradigm of TEFL (pp 91-94). Seoul 2006: The Korea Association of Teachers of English.

Palmberg, R. (2006b). “Operation MathLog - a progress report.”


Rolf Palmberg is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Teacher Education at Åbo Akademi University in Vaasa, Finland, where he has taught EFL methodology since 1979. His publications comprise a number of books and papers mainly in the fields of applied linguistics and EFL methodology.
He is also the author of a range of CALL programs and Java applets, available at: His non-academic interests include geographical enclaves and tripoints.

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