How having points on my math tests masked the truth

I recently gave my second assessment that I graded using standards based grading (SBG). While the feedback I gave was the same as I’ve always given, what really surprised me was how the traditional way I grade a math test was faulty and how it masked what the kids didn’t know.

Lets take a look at a typical math answer key:


I, like most math teachers, gave point values to each problem. If an equation takes 7 steps to solve I would assign 7 points to the problem. If a student makes an error and then follows through with the correct process, they would miss 1 point. If major computation or conceptual errors were made, more points would be deducted. It was a practice my own math teachers used and was one I learned while student teaching and I thought it worked well up until two weeks ago when all of that came crashing down.

While using SBG, I noticed some students had issues with a few problems on the assessment. I was not used to more than a few students getting a problem incorrect but then it dawned on me. It wasn’t the students. It was the way I had always graded a test or quiz. If I had 7 problems each worth approx. 6 points, that would be a total of 42 points. If 4 of the problems were incorrect with 1 minor error they would maybe miss 1 to 2 points per problem, they’d still earn 38/42 an A- and at the worst a 34/42 B-. The students would look at their A or B, accept that they did well, glance over the ones they missed and file it away in their binder. I always would make note of the problems students struggled with and reteach those concepts as needed.

With SBG, I was able to pinpoint the one standard from which most mistakes stemmed. I identified that concept, retaught and reassessed. The A’s and B’s that students would have received via traditional grading would have masked the concept students struggled with. Currently with SBG, students are in a cycle of consistent improvement. Students go problem by problem looking over what they missed, correct mistakes and then verbalize those corrections to me making sure students understand the why. Each student has to meet with me before reassessment. Having students explain their corrections is a powerful learning experience. They want to understand what they missed, not simply strive for the A or B.

It really opened my eyes to SBG and why it worked. I experienced t first hand the power it had for student achievement. I now could pull apart individual problems and pinpoint the exact reason or standard throughout an assessment that the student was struggling with. This is now how I report achievement to students on an assessment:


No longer does my traditional way in grading a math assessment mask what the students don’t know. It’s a freeing experience to have gotten rid of points.

Posted on October 1, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Yes, yes, and yes! The power of SBG in action. Great reflection and great student feedback!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: