Saturday, November 08, 2008

Secret Message to Calculus Students

I'm working on writing the multiple choice final right now.

You might think that with a multiple choice exam that I have less leeway about things like partial credit. While this is true to some extent, it's not the whole story. Because I get to write the choices, I get to decide whether or not to punish you for the small errors that I know you're likely to make.

For example, consider the following problem (a simplified example for the sake of argument):

(5 + 3x) - (7 - 6x)

If I want you to lose points because you don't know how to distribute a minus sign, I'll put -2 - 3x as a choice. If I don't want to snare you in that trap, I'll leave that choice out. That way if you get -2 - 3x and see that it isn't one of the choices, you'll think about trying the problem again.

Of course, some of you will insist on walking into these traps no matter what I do. That's why every question has the option "None of these." (Also, if I make a typo in a question or in the intended right answer, I don't have to throw out the question or deal with panic during the exam. Gotta love the "None of these" option.)