(Round Two MAPLE XXVIII) Grading pet peeves

Although I love my duties as a TA and also don’t mind the grading, there are several things that are pet peeves of mine when I grade math papers.  Here are some of them, with explanations.  In no particular order:

* Non-stapled papers.  This should be a given!  I can’t be responsible for lost pages when multiple pages are not bound together.  Furthermore, although it is a homework assignment instead of a formal report (especially at the freshman/sophomore level), it should at least be presented in some sort of reasonable fashion.  Because I think it’s important, after the first infraction, I deduct points.  After all, when you become a professional, will you ever turn in a report without staples or binding?  I don’t think so!

* Unclear work.  Sometimes, the assignment does not flow, and rather seems to be going everywhere.  That’s not necessarily a knock on the person writing it, but organization really does help the grader!  As a grader, we are trying to see if you can do the computations and/or understand the concepts.  This is not, “read the student’s mind.”

* Unsupported answers.  In math, the process is much more important than the answer for understanding.  Sometimes, the concepts are much harder than the computations, but as I know all too well from my research, a stupid sign error or algebra mistake can foul up an otherwise good assignment.  If this is all done in the head rather than on the page, it is impossible to diagnose!

* Right answer with no work or non-sequitur justification.  Oftentimes, if I see something along these lines on a homework assignment, it leaves me suspicious that someone copied the answer from someone else or from the back of the book.  Therefore, there is zero demonstration of understanding.

–> Interestingly, I have noticed that I tend to pick up on possible copying much more easily when papers have the same pattern of WRONG answers.  This is especially blatant when the wrong answers have almost the exact same wording with whatever copy is used, or the exact same equations with the same page layout, etc.  Although collaboration on the homework assignments is not forbidden, there IS a difference between “collaborating” and “blatant copying.”

* Wall of equations.  Although math does deal with symbols and numbers, it is very difficult to read an assignment that has nothing but equations.  In fact, although I know what might be meant, I compare it to reading code that has no comments in it.  Granted, I am very bad at computer programming, so I tend to OVERsaturate my code with comments!

And in many problems, you have to cite one or more concepts that justify what you are doing.  Plus, since I tend to value the understanding of the concepts more highly, this will help give partial credit even if the computations are dreck.  (Sometimes citing a concept will eliminate a penalty from a later wrong answer.)

* Begging for partial credit.  You merit what you merit.

Wow, this is probably one of the most negative posts that I have posted.  Please don’t read it as a complaint, but sometimes I like to speak my mind.  After all, I have probably from time to time done some of these on MY assignments when I used to take classes… and nobody is perfect!


Today is the twenty-eighth day of M.A.P.L.E.  That makes four weeks.

Algebra error.


I can’t follow your work.

Very elegant 🙂

Thank you for using words!

You got it!


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