Last night, just as I was going to bed I was notified through Twitter of Manan’s (@shahlock) latest blog post where he looks at the grading (by another person) of some work that had been sent to him.

As he rightly points out commenting on just the written grading is fraught with problems as you do not have any idea of what has been said in class in relation to the work. I agree completely with everything Manan has said about this particular piece of work.

The assessor has been very thorough; looking at every line and not just skipping to the final solution. This is of course a good thing and should be applauded, as should the detailed feedback given. However, my initial thought on looking at this assessment and its grading was that it had been marked by someone slavishly (is that a word?!) following a mark scheme with less knowledge of mathematics than the person taking the assessment. On reflection, this is perhaps a bit harsh, maybe the focus of this assessment is exposition and explaining mathematical reasoning – this would explain some of the comments given for problem number 7.

I don’t feel that this explanation really holds for the other marks lost though. The “order of operations” one probably bothers me the most. Working out \(3(-7+9) – 5 \) by using the distributive property gives the same answer as calculating \(3(2) – 5\). Frankly who cares how this is worked out as long as the correct answer is given; it is a short calculation that doesn’t really require working out what is inside the brackets first! Similarly the marks lost on question 6 just don’t make sense…

I passionately believe that mathematics should be seen as a creative discipline (as well as a scientific one). This sort of grading completely goes against this belief and is only going to serve to diminish confidence and turn pupils off mathematics. We should be celebrating different ways of working things out and I think you can encourage and strive for correct written communication without being pedantic!

Please let me (and Manan) know what you think….

*Related*

I think ‘slavishly’ is a word since ‘lavishly’ is a word. That’s how English works right?

Thank you, Tom, for taking the time out to write about this! Absolutely what frustrates me is the “here’s the only way to do it” approach!