[O.C.T.O.B.E.R. IV-9] Chunking

Despite the title, and yesterday’s post, this has nothing to do with memory aids. However, it is a technique for mental sanity, and I am writing this post while implementing it… and calling a time-out!

Prior to finishing graduate school, whenever I graded exams, I was frequently only responsible for grading one or two problems per exam. That means that I would grade exam-by-exam, rather than problem-by-problem, even on the cases where I had to grade two problems.

Rather than having one JUMBO pile of exams, though, it would be split up among the different sections of the class, which allowed me to “chunk” the work into more manageable mini-sessions.

When I first got to Stout, I attempted this same technique, and it was quite inefficient for the first few assignments, as it required me to store too many things in working memory–how I grade each problem, etc. It also meant that grading exam-by-exam would take a LONG time, particularly if I would add up the points of each exam right after grading the exam.

And even on the homework assignment packets, this would also be problematic for me.

Last week, I was chatting with one of my colleagues about sorting exams, and he recommended a technique that I will talk about in a future post.

Also, a few professors that I talked with said that it is more efficient to grade problem-by-problem.

Some advantages of grading problem-by-problem (or at least page-by-page on a well-defined sheet):

  • Fewer answers and penalties to commit to working and short term memory.
  • Less page-turning.
  • More manageable time-chunks: finish one problem and then take a quick break.
  • You can more quickly and easily refer to previous common errors and be more consistent in the grading.

Each time I grade, I think I get a bit faster, more efficient, and it becomes less annoying. Of course, I’m finding that some of my problems are very hard to grade… but that’s another topic to improve on another time!


Today is the ninth day of the fourth round of O.C.T.O.B.E.R. That makes one week and two days.

Memorial Stadium: 15 days.

Thanksgiving Day: 48 days.

Joint Mathematics Meetings: 89 days.

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