A New Grade Of Understanding

, , , | Learning | June 28, 2017

(I’m on the advanced track for math, so my classes are with students a grade above me. Every year, I need to have the principal and the math teacher sign a piece of paper to give me permission to enroll in the class. It’s worked out fine so far, but the teacher for calculus is notorious for denying all of these requests. He’s never allowed an advanced track student into one of his classes and frequently tells people that younger students cannot fully comprehend calculus. The alternatives are either a really boring accounting class or “Intro to Calculus,” a basic class intended for people who won’t be taking calculus in college. Despite the calculus teacher’s reluctance, my mom and the principal convince him to let me join the class. The teacher only agrees to let me in the class if I’m on a probationary period. If I have less than an a B+, I’ll be kicked out of the class. We’ve recently had our first test.)

Teacher: “I’ve graded your first test, and a lot of you aren’t going to like your score. The average was 52.”

Class: *winces*

Teacher: “This was only the first test. It’s not going to get any easier from here. Most of you need to rethink your study strategies, and a few of you should carefully consider if you actually want to be in this class. It’s not too late to transfer into ‘Intro to Calculus.’ Since this was the first test, I’ve curved it. That way, once you’ve come up with a better study strategy, the first test won’t kill your grade for the semester. Also, the distribution of the grades was all over the place. The curve I used pulls in the standard deviation and then shifts the scores up.”

(This increases scores that are below the average and decreases scores above the average in accordance to how far from the average they are. Then it adds points to all of them until the average is what the teacher wants.)

Teacher: “While I hand these out, work in groups on your worksheets. We’ll go over the test once everyone has theirs.”

(The teacher starts to hand them out, calling out names as he does. I notice he’s going alphabetically, but he skips my name. When he’s done, he still has one test left. He sits down at his desk and gestures for me to come up and talk to him. By this point, I’ve started to think I actually failed the test, and he’s going to make me transfer to ‘Intro to Calculus.’ I’m just hoping he’ll let me stay for the rest of the period instead of kicking me out in front of everyone.)

Teacher: *gestures for me to sit in the chair by his desk*

Me: *sits down nervously*

Teacher: “In all the years I’ve used this kind of curve, I’ve never seen this happen.”

(He sets my test down on the desk and slides it over to me. It’s a 96.)

Teacher: “Your score was so much higher than the average that the curve actually lowered your grade by a few points.”

Me: “Oh!”

Teacher: “So here’s what I did. You can keep the 96. I’ve recalculated the curve without your grade, which several of your classmates should be grateful for. I’ve also informed the principal that you’re no longer on probation. Welcome to Calculus!”

Me: *shocked and relieved* “Um… thanks!”

(The next year, he allowed all three of the advanced track students into his class without complaint and without any probationary periods.)

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