Would it make sense for math courses to be pass/fail?

Mathematics Educators Asked by Lex_i on September 5, 2021

I have a theory that if standardized grading were abolished for a pass/fail system, people would be more mathematically competent.

Bear with me here. With graded homework, especially homeworks that come with diminishing returns (limited attempts that reduce points with every failing attempt) – I argue that makes an incentive to search up answers online (online calculators, Chegg, etc.). When people do this they set up themselves to fail or do poorly in their exams.

You can argue graded homework encourages people to do homework, and I agree with this but the problem is it doesn’t necessarily encourage them to do their homework without aid. There’s a multitude of factors that contribute to poor studying and cheating, such as universities having credit requirements too steep for young adults to endure simultaneously with responsibilities like work, bills, parenthood, etc. (which are clearly designed to maximize tuition profit). I think with consideration to reduce economic and academic stress imposed on students as well as abolishing our standardized grading system, we could really maximize success in the classroom. We wouldn’t have students landing in calc 2 with a poor understanding of differentiation just because they managed to pass calc 1 with a 70%, or students that rely on homework, quizzes, curves, etc., to pass just because they consistently do poorly on their exams. I think the fact they do poorly on their exams is an indication our grading system is not doing its job.

2 Answers

You don't show why, not can I see how, your change to a digital outcome from a scaled one would change the behavior that concerns you, cheating on graded homework.

In contrast, I can see how changes like eliminating graded homework and replacing it with in class orictored exams would reduce, not eliminate, but reduce, cheating. Because it is harder under those conditions.

Furthermore, even if changing to pass fail helped reduce cheating, it would be important to consider other aspects of losing a scaled measurement. Real world problems are multivariable, not x and y. You need to consider various impacts of a change.

Answered by guest on September 5, 2021

Proficiency in any field requires putting some rather high number of hours of hard work (some 10,000 hours or so) into it. You have to align the incentives of would-be learners so they do put in that time. If the best way is just pass/fail or a grade system is anybody's guess, but perhaps a search will turn up rigorous studies on the matter.

Note that I don't consider asking Google, looking up the solution in Wikipedia or having Wolfram Alpha compute the hairy formula "cheating", those are tools that you have to learn to use well to be proficient in your area. Those are raw inputs, how you use it is what is important.

Answered by vonbrand on September 5, 2021

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