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Anyone tried subtracting marks to discourage guessing?

Discussion in 'Mathematics' started by mature_maths_trainee, Dec 10, 2015.

  1. mature_maths_trainee

    mature_maths_trainee New commenter

    I've a group of lower-ability Year 7 students, many of whom are competitive but reluctant to ever 'think'. I usually avoid 'scoring' their work and just give qualitative comments, but I'm considering exploiting their competitiveness a bit (and maybe teach them something about strategic game-playing) by using a scoring/marking scheme for some normal classwork exercises in which marks are deducted for incorrect answers.
    It seems to me that this also has the potential advantage of making weak areas far more transparent (a student can't easily claim to have 'just made a silly mistake' if they've chosen not to attempt a particular question for fear of it being wrong).

    Have others tried this? In what circumstances has it been successful / a failure?

  2. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    I would say that the last thing I would want to do is make students afraid to have a go. In my experience, some students would rather miss out a question than try it and fail, even if they do not lose marks for wrong answers. But perhaps I am wrong and you can make it work.
    colinbillett likes this.
  3. david846846

    david846846 New commenter

    Never tried it, as with Piranha I'm more concerned about making sure all my pupils give all questions a go.
    Perhaps a confidence based mark scheme would work for you: Once a question is answered pupils indicate their certainty (3 for certain,2 fairly sure,1 not at all sure), the certainty also indicates the marks for getting the question right, but also there is a negative aspect if certain but wrong -3, fairly sure -1, not at all sure 0. If the pupils take to it you'll see how good they are on what they are sure off and on what they are "guessing". This method shouldn't discourage anyone from attempting questions and the competitive pupils should take to the risk element of going for +3s and trying to maximise their scores.
  4. corbettmaths

    corbettmaths New commenter

    Hi MMT

    I haven't tried deducting marks to discourage guessing, so cannot profess to be an expert on it, however a few things I personally would consider:

    1) As the class is "lower ability," could it be demoralising to spend time on their work and then finish with an overall negative score?

    2) You mention "not wanting to think," are there other ways to encourage thinking? Perhaps:

    - Showcasing/celebrating examples of excellent responses or pieces of work
    - Use 3 pronged questioning...
    Ask student 1 what the answer is, Ask student 2 if they agree, Ask student 3 why they agree.
    - Use a daily "Thunk/Puzzle" when the students enter the room.
    - Perhaps instead of giving them questions, give them an exercise that you have completed along with intentional mistakes (falling for all the common misconceptions) and the students need to correct it.
    - Throw in open ended questions where there are no obvious "right" answers.

    3) It might be worthwhile exploring assessments where there are deductions, such as the certain sections of the UK Maths Challenges. Though keeping in mind these are probably quite resilent students sitting these.

    4) Before introducing, perhaps trial on a group of older, more resilent students... perhaps an A-level group. Explain what you are trying to achieve and get their feedback on how it worked for them.

    I hope that helps

    Kind regards

  5. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    might be wroth visiting your feeder schools to see what they have come from. You might be very surprised to find the level of work that they used to be able to do. But quite possibly did no maths at all since the day of the last Maths SAT, understandable when you see just how much English and Maths dominates the curriculum time in most yr6 classes

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