Interpreting Your Students’ Quiz Answers (An Illustrated Guide)

Either “The answer is 5 factorial” or “The answer is 5 and I’m pretty juiced about that.”

“I’ve internalized your sermons about ‘never forgetting the constant of integration’ so well that I now include it in places where it can’t possibly belong, like tax forms and phone numbers.”

“The answer is 5, and you gave us too much time for the quiz.”

“The answer is either 5 or 6, and I hope this ambiguous symbol acts for you as an inkblot test onto which you may project your own preconceptions.”

“I mean, 5 is my best guess, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I couldn’t handle the disappointment of committing outright to a wrong answer.”

Either “The answer is 5 factorial factorial factorial” or “The answer is 5 factorial, and I’m very, very excited to share this fact.”

“I think the symbol ‘=’ is an orthographic drumroll, used to introduce an answer, rather than a verb meaning ‘is equal to.’”

Either “I’m a good little student who boxes my answers” or “The answer is Rectangle #5.”

Although the urgency is clear, educational scholars remain baffled as to what these markings may signify. When I encounter such symbols, I grade them as if the student had answered ‘6,’ just to be safe.

“I’m sorry, I’ve mistaken your quiz for a Facebook chat window.”

“The answer is 5, and I lack challenges in your class.”

“Based on my spelling of ‘probably,’ I need English remediation far more urgently than I need your math instruction.”

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11 thoughts on “Interpreting Your Students’ Quiz Answers (An Illustrated Guide)

  1. The only one that you left out is the little “end of proof” symbol. How could the answer possibly be wrong if it is proven?

  2. This is quite a nice blog you got here! Found it earlier today, and now I’m hooked. Thanks for decreasing my productivity by… Well, I wasn’t going to be doing anything productive so I guess zero percent.

  3. I think that you are far to generous with your ambiguous 5/6 symbol; I’m fairly sure that the time when I got something like that, it was more like, “The answer is either 5 or 6, and if you mark me down, I am going to claim that I meant the other one so I can demand that you give me more points.”

  4. Bwalk and Meggen: Thanks for reading!

    Urban Myth: Oops, what an oversight. You’re so right. Throw a QED or a box down, and it just HAS to be true.

    Zach: Well, glad you learned the answer-boxing lesson, at least. There are many who never got there…

    Arthur: Thanks!!! (That was “Thanks!!” factorial.)

    Neil: You’ve got to admire their honesty, at least.

    Robly: Thanks for reading! Glad to know I have the power to drag others’ productivity down towards mine.

    Ariel: Yeah, you’re probably right about the sneaky strategy behind the 5/6 symbol.

    Jiffyrohan: I like those variants on +C a lot! Now, if only there were some way to get them to add the +C at the right step when solving differential equations, rather than waiting until the end and thereby getting the wrong answer…

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