I have been asked this question a lot lately. How do I grade math? I find it interesting that people ask me this question since math is one of the most straight-forward subjects to grade. I love grading math because it is objective. The answer is either right or it is wrong.
After I thought about it for a bit, I realize that people are really asking me how they can be more lenient when they are grading math. This is if we are really honest with ourselves, and you know that I am all about being honest over here. Parents want to know if they really have to give them that low score the kids really deserve. Maybe there is a way to manipulate the numbers to give them a better grade.
I get it. Is that trig problem really only worth one point? It took a half a page to complete. How can I judge the problem? Maybe this math grading is subjective after all? How important is it that their problem is exactly right? What can I do to make this less painful?
Let’s face it. Math is painful for some kids. They don’t enjoy it and don’t quite grasp the concepts. Maybe they do well enough, but they enjoy it as much as a trip to the dentist. Some kids have convinced themselves that they are terrible at math. What can we as parents do to make it easier on all of us?
Over the years, I have changed the way that I teach and grade math. When I first started homeschooling I graded their daily assignments every day (you should be doing this too). I would write in red pen at the top of the page how many problems they missed. It was fine when they were little because they usually only missed one or two, but as the difficulty of the problems increased so did their errors. How defeating it was to see how many they missed every day.
I changed the way I looked at their daily assignments after one of my piano lessons. I realized that I was practicing all week long to perform my song for my instructor. I would correct my errors (and there were lots of them) and master the section before I saw her. That is exactly what math daily assignments are. Practice. They are not a test. The kids shouldn’t have to prove anything on their daily assignments. So why was I turning every daily assignment into a test?
Daily assignments are practice. Students are trying to master the concepts taught in the lessons. Very rarely does this come on the day they learn the new concept. It takes lots of practice. Days of practice. Why was I making my child feel bad for not grasping the concept after the first day? The light bulb eventually turns on. Sometimes it takes a week. Sometimes it takes longer.
How do I grade the daily assignment? I grade it complete or incomplete. That is it. A complete grade means they finished the assignment. I corrected it. And finally, we review all the problems they missed that day. Yes, I know this means that you have to work. You know me. I try to find the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, for math this is the path. I hear of parents who grade a week at a time or even two weeks at a time. This isn’t good for anyone. What happens when your child has been performing an operation wrong for the last two weeks? I will tell you. Tears happen. If you have a bad day, you can skip a day, but don’t let it go longer.
Okay. Daily assignments? Complete or incomplete. Easy.
I grade tests differently based upon the grade level. Through Pre-Algebra each problem on the test is one point. You get it all right or all wrong. When my kids start Algebra, I look at different things. How complex is the problem? Is it something that only measures one concept or are multiple concepts required to find the answer? Problems with multiple concepts are worth more. What about a problem that is only one concept but require several lines to simplify? I usually make these worth a couple of points. It is so easy to drop one negative and end up with the wrong answer. As the problems increase in complexity, I start to grade on details. Did my child skip a couple of steps and then mess up? Wrong. I want to see line by line details of the problem. To me, this is just as important as the right answer. (A complex math problem should resemble an upside-down triangle.) How am I supposed to see where my child is messing up if I can’t see their work? Showing all the work is important, and I give credit for that. I eye the problem and decide a point value to the problem. It is usually somewhere between 1 and 5. You should know, however, the 5 point problems don’t usually show up until late Algebra 2. Story problems are always 2 points. One point for setting the problem up correctly, and one point for getting the right answer.
I don’t ever, ever, ever, make my kids write a paragraph to tell me how they came to the right answer. Just no.
To make an overall grade, I weigh the daily work and the test scores. Test scores should receive more weight because it is proof of their knowledge, but you can do whatever you want. Just don’t make the daily assignments worth more than the tests, but you can make them equal weights.
And that is how I grade math. Do it every day. Grade their assignments every day. Unfortunately, in math there are no short cuts. Wish I had better news for you.
Hope this helps! Happy simplifying!