Making a Point with Math

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When I taught 11th grade, I taught several classes where a good handful of students did not regularly turn in homework.  Many of them completed all of the work late and turned it in for half-credit, which for many of them was enough to boost their grade just above failing.  The first batch of quiz grades revealed that this strategy was a bad idea, but it was hard to convince students of that fact.  I decided to use math to prove my assertion that turning in homework on time is a good idea.

I did this by making a table (with no identifying info other than what class a student was in) of how many assignments a student completed on time, and what their quiz grade was.  I graphed the resulting charts and showed them to all the classes.  Here is an example of one of those charts:

Some students needed an explanation of what the graph means.  If you have students in the class at a high enough level of math to explain it, have them help you.  If not, pull out a couple examples (e.g. “Look at this student who turned in 9/9 homework assignments on time.  What grade did they get on the test?) and explain that the graph is sloping up, meaning that the more homework assignments a student turned in on time, on average their test scores were better.  Of course there are exceptions, but are most people an exception?  No.

Positives: For some students seeing proof of the trend will help convince them to make different choices.

Negatives: Did this convince everyone to change their wayward homework habits?  No.  At least hopefully now when they


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