# Instructions for a problem set

These are my instructions for a problem set that I am giving for a Math 60 (Intro Algebra) class at a community college. What do you think? Are they clear? What would you add or subtract?

These are hard problems. I ask that you exert a substantial amount of effort on these problems before seeking help.

You are allowed to look in your text or on the Internet for help.

You are not allowed to copy another person's work, whether that person is a classmate, a tutor, or someone on the Internet. Your write-up should be your own work.

Classmates (and tutors) are allowed to discuss these problems with each other but one person should not be telling another person what specifically to write down. If a student wants more specific help, then the person helping should find a similar problem to solve, and not solve the one given below.

Grading criteria: Each question is worth 4 points.

• 4 points = accurately explained and solved
• 3 points = a mathematically sound, substantial attempt, but has a small error
• 2 points = a mathematically sound, substantial attempt, but has substantial errors
• 1 points = not mathematically sound, not a substantial attempt
• What do you mean by "mathematically sound?" I think that would be the only unclear part.
– Ryan
Jan 12, 2016 at 20:18
• At least for the grading criteria, it may be helpful to give examples of a single problem and four different "answers" so that students have some idea of what constitutes 1 vs. 2 vs. 3 vs. 4 point responses. Jan 12, 2016 at 23:14
• Do you, or your students, consider a Kahn Academy video to be 'another person's work'? Also, where on your mark scheme will you put answers that attempt something that could work out but are very unlikely to/go wrong near the end/the student wouldn't know that it is correct? Jan 13, 2016 at 15:58
• Jessica, I am not sure what you mean by "something that could work out but are very unlikely to/go wrong near the end/the student wouldn't know that it is correct"
– Kara
Jan 13, 2016 at 17:53
• @Kara I find students are very good at doing things you don't expect them to do. Sometimes they come up with a method that you realise does have justification, but you're pretty certain they don't know that justification. Jan 14, 2016 at 7:55

What is "copying"? Is looking at Wikipedia and paraphrasing what is said there "copying"?

You should perhaps ask for citations of the materials referenced/used, be it classmate discussion, tutor, textbook, lecture note elsewhere, whatever.

You say students should "exert a substantial amount of effort on these problems before seeking help." That is open to interpretation and might mean a half hour of staring at the problems without any ideas to one student and trying different methods to another students. You might clarify this in class so that you can have a discussion.

Also you say students can discuss this problem, but it isn't clear if that is considered seeking help or if that is something they can do before exerting that effort.

I have updated my instructions. I'll see how it goes. Thanks for your feedback.

These are hard problems. Please make an attempt on paper before seeking help from another person.

You are not allowed to look at or copy another person's work, whether that person is a classmate, a tutor, or someone on the Internet. Your write-up should be your own work.

Classmates (and tutors or other outside help) are allowed to discuss these problems with you. The helping person may say something like “The first thing I did was add 5 to both sides” or “I think the answer is 5.” The helping person may not tell the student what to write down line by line, as that is the same as copying. In other words, the helping person may discuss the outline of a solution, but the student has to fill in the details.

If you received outside help, please cite the source, whether the source is a classmate, a tutor, or someone on the Internet.

Grading criteria: Each question is worth 4 points.

• 4 points = accurately explained and solved
• 3 points = a substantial attempt using a valid method with a small error
• 2 points = a substantial attempt using a valid method with substantial errors
• 1 points = not a valid method, or not a substantial attempt