Monthly Archives: December 2015

Reflections on a Grading System

This semester in Precalculus I used my own grading system that I created through Google Spreadsheets. The program worked well enough, but I am going back to ActiveGrade for a few reasons.

Screenshot from 2015-12-19 15-22-43

Left: Student View. Right: Teacher View.

Why I’m Leaving the Google Spreadsheet Grading

The students were confused with the overwhelming number of grades they had to wade through. The simplicity of ActiveGrade is also one of its strengths.

Occasionally the students couldn’t see their grades because the function ImportRange sometimes didn’t work.

The teacher view is every student’s assignment, so I can’t easily see where students stand on a given topic.

I initially liked separating skills and understanding concepts, but there are a few problems from it. For one, the skills and concepts are on different tabs, so it’s more cumbersome to input grades.

I separated the standards on each quiz, but through some teachers on Twitter I see the perspective of not putting standards on quizzes and having students figure out which standard is which. Breaking the standards into tiny chunks was good for encouraging students to “retake” standards.

One more advantage of ActiveGrade is the ability to send an e-mail to every student and parent with their grades. Currently our school sends a weekly grade e-mail to parents, but since I don’t keep my grades there, parents don’t see student’s grades.

Math Practices

I tried to keep track of certain math practices: (1) Good reasoning & explanations, (2) Checking work, (3) Math Modeling, (4) Asking good questions, and (5) Reasoning when doing estimations. I wasn’t good at “catching” (1) when students did it in class (that was supposed to be the primary way I got that one), students didn’t do well enough on quizzes to get to the point of (2) checking their work, and the system I had designed for (4) asking good questions didn’t allow for enough students to demonstrate their ability. The only ones that worked were (3) and (5). The (3) Math Modeling worked since they had to turn in the sheet to show that they worked during the 3-act lesson. The (5) estimations worked because it was a warm-up [1], once a week, and the students submitted responses into a Google form (, which I could then plug in later. However, the warm-up took longer than I wanted (~15 minutes), so I think I’m going to drop it for 2nd semester.

Because of all this, the Math Modeling is the only Math Practice I’m going to keep grading. I’ll probably plug this into the school’s grading system and set it as %30 of a student’s grade. This should be a gimme for students that are present and turn in the work that they do in class, once a week, on block days.

The New Plan

I still want to emphasize understanding. I plan to do this on a case-by-case basis. I will no longer break one standard into sub-standards for grading purposes (e.g. 1.7 Combinations & Composition of Functions had the sub-standards 1.7A Combinations of Functions, 1.7B Function Composition, and 1.7C Function Decomposition) because I want students to know what a question is asking by reading the question, not the standard heading. However, it is often still helpful to introduce new ideas by breaking it down, so I’ll hold on to those names somewhere. Quizzes will be broken into 3 “sections”, and students receive a grade: 1, 2, or 3, for each quiz. To earn a 3 (Mastery), students will have to demonstrate understanding at some point[2]. I am still going to make “going beyond” available (trying to decide between making it a 3.5 and a 4) for students who want to reach and get an A. I’ve really appreciated the Nrich math problems to that end.


Quizzes (or discussions) to demonstrate previous standards will take longer: to create, take and grade.

It will take more work for students to see which skill or understanding they need to focus on when going back over previous standards, since the standards aren’t broken into tiny sections anymore.

Students won’t see that “growth level” (and the video game characters to go with it!0 which I was so excited about. I think it accurately captured which students worked the hardest to improve in math in my class and I hope to find ways to encourage that kind of growth again.


Those are the only drawbacks? Grading should be faster to plug in, parents will know where students stand more frequently, and students will be required to recognize when a skill or technique applies rather than just memorizing a single skill and applying it. Why didn’t I make this change sooner? I’ve still got a ways to go, but hopefully I can start focusing on content more.


[1] Also, the Estimation 180 website is already created, and super cool!

[2] Before a 2 “felt like a 2” and a 3 “felt like a 3”. Now there 3 questions and it’s easier for a student to predict how well they’ll do based on their own grading of themselves after a quiz. From Chemistry I have appreciated making it clearer what a student will get based on how well they perform on each question.



Filed under Teaching