Infinite “Extra Credit”

I teach AP Statistics, which I find to be an incredibly challenging curriculum. I have a very heterogeneous group of math confidence levels (students who took Algebra II as juniors up through students in multi-variable calculus taking this as a second math), we do almost no probability and statistics in our earlier curriculum, and, frankly, it is simply a content-heavy course; the number of new vocabulary terms and symbols in AP Stats dwarfs, say, geometry, which is already pretty high in that domain.

For various time and scheduling issues, we have both less class time and less homework time available for the course than many schools – this is based on looking at pacing guides for other schools – and I feel like my students get under-served in preparation time for the AP exam. It is unfortunately too rarely that I can squeeze in an in class FRAPPY! for example.

So I’ve instituted a new policy: infinite extra credit.

Students download a free response problem from the AP Statistics web page. They work the problem in one color, timed. Then they go back to their notes and textbook and try to fix any mistakes, in another color. Next, they look at the rubric and sample work provided by college board, and carefully grade their own work (both before and after the notes). Then they reflect on any difficulties, notices and wonders about the rubric process, etc. They turn it in, I read over it, mostly to check that they are following the guidelines and seem to have gotten something out of it and aren’t trying to game the system. If it looks good, they get a 100 quiz grade.

They can do this for every free response problem ever published, if they want. If they do it for at least 20 of them, the quiz grades will count more than all of their test grades combined. Obviously a good deal!

So how can I justify “extra credit” being such a big deal?

  1. It’s not homework on a fixed schedule. The homework I assign and require is adequate to prepare them for our tests and probably the exam, but it’s only 30-40 minutes every other night. These take probably 45 minutes per problem, so they are right out for homework. If their lives are busy/crazy, they don’t have to do any of these. And if they get a break one weekend, they can do 10 of them that weekend if they want, and never again.
  2. It is almost certainly better preparation for the AP exam than any other assignments I give. Both because hey, real problems, and because it encourages spaced practice, retrieval, interleaved practiced, etc – all Make it Stick points.
  3. Their test grades are often pretty poor, for a variety of reasons, so they could use the help, and for some reason the idea of “extra credit” inspires them to work far harder than any other thing. I’ve seen a better response to this than I saw to reassessments when I was killing myself to do SBG with this group. It’s like if you say “extra credit” they stop thinking of it as painful work.
  4. I have small enough classes and a good enough rapport that I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to sniff out anybody trying to game the system and have a real chat with them about it. Which will be good for everybody. Those that take it seriously will learn SO MUCH from this process.

I haven’t been doing it long, but I think it is going to work well.



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