What’s the point of grading, especially Rocket Math?

Getting an “A” grade motivates students to do more of that subject.

Teachers ask me how they should grade Rocket Math. The answer depends upon the point of grading. If the point is to motivate students, then take the passing tests and grade them based on accuracy.  Everyone is required to get 100% accurate in order to pass, so everyone will get an “A.”  But somehow that doesn’t usually satisfy people.  Here’s the problem.  Who is responsible for the success of students doing Rocket Math? The teacher is.  The students–not so much!

Teachers must teach students how they are to practice and how the partner is to make corrections.  The teacher is supposed to walk around and monitor to see that the students are practicing and correcting the right way. The teacher is responsible to intervene and re-train the students in the proper practice procedures if they aren’t doing it right, not give them a bad grade.  As long as students are practicing the way they should they will learn as fast as they can.  The teacher is responsible for how much time students have to practice and how frequently they get to practice.  The teacher is responsible for arranging that parents know how to practice at home and for arranging that students bring the used sheets home daily for homework.  The teacher is responsible for making sure goals are set properly.  If a student is not progressing well with one practice session a day, the teacher is responsible for seeing that the student gets an extra practice session each day. So, if the point of grading is to communicate whether students have been responsible in doing their work, how can you grade students down if they are doing what they are told but the teacher hasn’t done what’s needed to make them successful?

Still, if you feel the point of grading is to communicate student progress or lack of it, regardless of who’s responsible, you could grade students on the speed of their progress. That would be fair, as long as everyone was clear that a student who was progressing too slowly and thereby got a low grade needs additional practice time rather than a scolding. I would recommend grading based on the assumption that students should pass at least a level a week. Take the number of days the class has done Rocket Math during the grading period and divide by 5 to get the number of full weeks students have had to practice Rocket Math. Take the number of levels each student has passed during the grading period and divide that by the number of weeks they had to practice. That will give you a percentage on which you can grade, using your school’s typical grading system.

Levels passed divided by the number of weeks practiced (calculated by dividing the number of days by 5).

A class did Rocket Math 40 days during the quarter, divided by 5 gives 8 weeks. A student who passed 7 levels during that time gets 7/8 or 87%, which is a B in most places. His partner passed only 6 levels in those 40 days so he got 6/8 or 75% which might be a C.
Another class did Rocket Math every day, 45 days during the quarter, divided by 5 gives 9 weeks of practice. A student who passed 6 levels in that time would get 6/9 or 66% probably a D. Another student who passed 11 levels in those 9 weeks would get 11/9 or 122% an A.

Any student with a grade below “C” should start getting an extra practice session each day to prevent falling behind further. In a classroom where students were practicing the right way each day almost all of the students would pass at least a level a week and all would get As.

5 thoughts on “What’s the point of grading, especially Rocket Math?

  1. Please don’t grade students based on performance. If they are doing the same work and practice as everyone else and aren’t progressing at the same speed they need encouragement not a lower grade. In my experience, some students will simply take longer to learn theur facts. Its just so unfair to give the students who are not putting in any more effort than others the most encouragement.

    • Shannon, I couldn’t agree more! Well said! Unfortunately, teachers often tell me they are “required” to grade Rocket Math. That being the case I think the grading system I laid out would give most students a good grade and the ones that are taking more than a week to pass would be getting a grade that indicates they need more help–they need an extra session each day. That’s what grades are best for: helping the teacher and the parents notice when a student needs more assistance! You don’t have to tell anyone the grades, but try it and see if my suggestion doesn’t help you see who needs more practice sessions!

  2. The school my children attend are grading rocket math based on the two minute progress test. My daughter is only on level G. She answered 22 out of the 46 (based on her speed of writing used to determine how many to answer) and was given a score of 48%. They are placing these scores in the grade book. Do you have any recommendations that I can take to them.

    • Hi Nance, Let me see if I have this right. Your daughter on Level G was able to answer 22 problems on the 2 minute test. (She has mastered sets A through F, or a total of 6 sets of 4 facts = 24 facts so far.) If she knew all 100 facts (after she finished Set Z) she would be able, given her writing speed, to answer 46 problems in 2 minutes. But it is not reasonable to expect her to be able to answer 46 facts now–that is an end of the year goal. Considering she has had time to master only about 24% of the facts, a score of 48% of her annual goal is terrific! If that 48% is being marked as a failure, that is absolutely incorrect. She is making good progress towards an annual goal. I don’t know if that is graded, but it doesn’t need to be. Just the information about progress is sufficient.

      • Unfortunately they are putting her filing grade into the grade book. As well as her peers. I have a conference today with her teacher. I have been informed that this is an ongoing problem and was hoping for advice from the creators of the program to assist me. I am wanting to improve my child’s confidence not destroy it.

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