Monday, October 26, 2020

Grade Calculator

 I give this to my students at the end of the first quarter of each semester.  Since we are on a block schedule, their grades average to this formula -

1st Quarter - 40%

2nd Quarter - 40%

Final Exam - 20%

I'm sure you school district has a similar set up with only minor differences in the weight of each thing. The problem is, students often do not fully grasp how this works both for them and against them.  Many will come into the new quarter with an idea that they will work extra hard after slacking off and pull their grade up to a B, when mathematically, that is just not going to happen.  

I decided long ago to be a bit more transparent so that they can formulate a plan and know EXACTLY what it is they need to get.  That involves understanding both why they didn't get the grade they may have wanted (was it test average, was it missing assignments, was it poor grades) and what they need to get now.

I often start them off with a worksheet (will be doing it a bit different this year with it being remote - still working that one out) and the first question I ask is what number grade do they want for the whole course.

Then I give them their number grade for the first quarter.

Then I give them this chart:

You can get the whole chart with the link.  The thing is, no matter how much your percentages are for the final exam, this chart still works!  Here's why:

Each quarter will weigh the same in regards to each other.

The two quarters are ALWAYS much more weighty than the exam.

The two quarters are the thing that students have the most control over.

The exam, while weighty, is not nearly as important as the quarters to determining overall grade and since most students will score within 15 points of their averaged quarter grade, the impact to the final average is low.

So now the students can look at the chart, run their finger down the left side to find what they they have, run their finger across the top to find out what they want, and then follow the row and column until they intersect, which is the grade they need this quarter to get that.  

For example, a student has a 73.  He wants a B, which in my state is an 80.  His fingers follow the lines until he sees that this quarter he must make an 87 for that to happen.

The formula is super simple - basically for every point your first quarter grade is BELOW what you want, your second quarter must be that many points ABOVE what you want.  

Conversely, for every point ABOVE what you want, you can go that many points BELOW what you want.

This saddens some students, but it also gives them a solid number.  There is no guesswork.  They know they NEED a 68 or they aren't passing the course going into the exam.  Then you can have them check their grade periodically against their magic number.

About the exam?  Well, if you have my district's percentages, then the exam will affect the final grade 1 point for every 5 points above or below the quarters averaged together.  I tell my students to add three to five points to their target second quarter grade just to be a buffer in case the exam is not what they want it to be.

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