# Would it make sense for math courses to be pass/fail?

I have a theory that if standardized grading were abolished for a pass/fail system, people would be more mathematically competent.

Bear with me here. With graded homework, especially homeworks that come with diminishing returns (limited attempts that reduce points with every failing attempt) - I argue that makes an incentive to search up answers online (online calculators, Chegg, etc.). When people do this they set up themselves to fail or do poorly in their exams.

You can argue graded homework encourages people to do homework, and I agree with this but the problem is it doesn't necessarily encourage them to do their homework without aid. There's a multitude of factors that contribute to poor studying and cheating, such as universities having credit requirements too steep for young adults to endure simultaneously with responsibilities like work, bills, parenthood, etc. (which are clearly designed to maximize tuition profit). I think with consideration to reduce economic and academic stress imposed on students as well as abolishing our standardized grading system, we could really maximize success in the classroom. We wouldn't have students landing in calc 2 with a poor understanding of differentiation just because they managed to pass calc 1 with a 70%, or students that rely on homework, quizzes, curves, etc., to pass just because they consistently do poorly on their exams. I think the fact they do poorly on their exams is an indication our grading system is not doing its job.

• How would you determine whether to pass or fail a student?
– JRN
Jul 9, 2020 at 4:04
• The students who would look up answers to do their homework, are unlikely to suddenly work hard because there are no grades but Pass/Fail. Jul 9, 2020 at 5:52
• Many colleges/universities instituted mandatory Pass/Fail during the pandemic spring semester. Perhaps we could hear 1st-hand experiences. Jul 9, 2020 at 12:03
• I've read the question several times, and I can't make out what the argument is. The first paragraph makes a claim (pass-fail would lead to greater competence). The second paragraph identifies a problem (cheating on homework). I'm not having any success understanding what is being argued in the third paragraph.
– user507
Jul 9, 2020 at 14:52
• @BenCrowell In the third paragraph I argue cheating isn't really an issue of lazy or careless students, its a product of stress to get high grades. I think GPA pressures, credit pressures, financial pressures, etc., drain people and encourage them to cheat. I argue by reducing or eliminating these pressures people will naturally put in more effort. How I'd determine whether a student passes or fails is by their attendance, involvement in in-class activities, and their exams. I'm not sure how I'd structure the exam assessments but It's an idea I think is worth considering. Jul 9, 2020 at 23:34