I think it’s time to revoke our grading licenses

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Here’s what happens when you didn’t get any all of your grading done this weekend (but the Saints won!!!!!!! Yay New Orleans!), and then instead of catching up before class your department gathers informally and starts to talk about Friday’s wacky trillion point grading scheme, and if there’s a class that lends itself to that, and someone mentions that Physics would really be the ideal course for this, because they have to deal with measures of scale so often.

Well, there’s only one place for this conversation to go:  the other extreme.  What if you had a class that, instead of having 500 points for the semester, or even 1,000,000,000,000, had only 1 point.  Total.  Exams could be worth 2/10 of a point, each homework assignment might only be worth 1/250 of a point, etc.  If someone had an unexcused absence, you’d knock 1/500 off a grade.   It might make it easier to defend points deducted, too, because you could say, “Look, I only took off 5 thousandths of a point for that mistake, so it’s hardly worth arguing about.”

Plus, this could be a learning experience because you could use Official Prefixes:  “This exam is worth 2 decipoints (not to be confused with decapoints)”.   The trouble is, most science students are pretty familiar with deci, centi, and milli so if you really want to make it…memorable….having 1 point for the whole semester is still too much.

The problem is, in looking online, we don’t really seem to have enough prefixes.  The prefixes start off simply enough (deci, centi, and milli being 1/10, 1/100, and 1/1000 respectively) but then decrease by factors of 1000:  the next smallest amount would be a micropoint, which is actually a thousandth of a millipoint, or 1/1,000,000 of an actual point.     Then there are nanopoints (1/1000 of a micropoint) and picopoints (1/1000 of a nanopoint) and while those words are fun to say, we’d need something closer in scale to a micropoint to be able to distinguish amounts, or else it becomes essentially a 1000 point grading scheme with a twist:  “This exam is worth 200 yoctopoints out of a total of 1 zeptopoint for the semester.”

I guess maybe this isn’t so practical after all.  And that’s truly a shame, because who wouldn’t want to write a grading scheme that used yoctopoints?

What has 8 legs and no room for anything else?  A yoctopus!

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One Response to “I think it’s time to revoke our grading licenses”

  1. quo2 Says:

    What’s in that grading system? Got plenty of number places…

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