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Is Extra Credit a Worthwhile Option?

Among teachers, extra credit work has its supporters and its critics, and there are a large number of "undecideds" as well. (Sounds like a political poll!) The range of viewpoints is understandable because the whats, when, whys and hows of extra-credit assignments really matter. Many instructors can't determine whether extra credit is a benefit or a liability, whether it is a point of contention or a headache. In other words, often it is a controversial practice.

When considering extra credit, think about these questions.

1) Does extra credit urge the students to spend less effort on their main assignments?

2) Are extra credit assignments meaningful or mere busy work?

3) Will extra credit encourage student behaviors that will not serve them well in the real world?

4) Should extra credit opportunities be extended to every student or be offered only to certain students on a case-by-case basis?

5) Can extra credit work contribute to grade inflation?

Teaching on the college level, I find that particular instructors never offer extra credit under any circumstances. (That’s me!) Others embrace it as a way to help students learn the course material or improve an unacceptable test score. A small minority, if pushed, will confess they only offer it when students wear them down until they finally give in to it. Most instructors understand that if there are too many opportunities for extra credit, it could possibly outweigh the required course assignments to the point where a student could pass the class without meeting all the standards. (YIKES!!)

I have always been anti-extra credit, the central reason being that it can inflate grades and allow students to receive grades that truly do not reflect their abilities or understanding of a subject. (Remember, I teach math.)  This is the way I view it.
  • Extra credit reinforces students’ beliefs that they don’t need to work hard because whatever they miss or choose not to do, they can make up with extra credit. 
  • Often, students who ask for extra credit tend to be those who aren’t succeeding or those who hope they won’t have to work hard because some easy extra credit opportunities will be available to them. 
  • It is an unintended chance to make up for low scores on earlier exams or missed assignments. (I would NEVER create extra credit assignments at the end of a grading period for students who needed a boost in their grades.) 
  • Time spent on extra credit means less time spent on regular assignments. 
  • Extra credit (especially if it is easy) lowers academic standards for everyone in the class. 
  • It is basically unfair to students who work hard and get it done the first time or turned in when it is due. 
  • Extra credit means more work for me in that it has to be graded! 
So after all of my rambling about extra credit work, my question to you is:

"What are your thoughts (pros and cons) about extra credit?" 
Leave a comment to participate in the discussion.

A Go Figure Debut for a Couple Who Are New!

Matt and Tara's Store
When I first saw the Teachers Pay Teachers logo for the store "Tied 2 Teaching", I thought, "How clever!" "Tie" is definitely meant to be interpreted in more than one way. This store belongs to a married couple, Matt and Tara, from Arkansas.

Matt has been teaching full time for seven years, and has taught grades ranging from 4th through 8th grade. He has served as the chair of the math department and is currently involved with math and science leadership on the campus where he teaches. This year, he teaches all subject areas in a 5th grade class, and he loves it! In addition, his wife, Tara, homeschools their children as well as runs the business/social media aspect of their store.

This teaching team believes learning should be fun! Matt claims his classroom is often filled with silliness and laughter. From wearing funny hats to different ties each day, to creating magical math experiences, his students never know what will be next to bring a smile to their faces. He believes students learn best in an environment they enjoy! (Don't we all?) His students are encouraged to explore, create and try new things. In addition, he is passionate about finding ways to integrate math, science and literacy instruction.

Free Resource
This team has been selling on TPT for 17 months. Their store contains a broad range of product levels and content although the biggest percentage is for 5th grade math. They have over 370 different resources in their store, with 21 being free. 

Lately, Matt has been putting in more time into new science products. One of his free items is entitled, "Science Starters". It gives the teacher five designed printables to help establish morning routines and provides a varied, rigorous way to spiral and review Space Science objectives and standards with elementary students. They now have a free google drive version of this product as well.

Only $10.00
Another resource Tied to Teaching offers is a Math Test Prep Bundle for Fourth Grade. (It is also available for 3rd and 5th.) This collection of four Mathematics Prep-Tests is part of the comprehensive Smarter Design Test Prep Series. It provides the teacher with four complete, common core aligned, math prep tests that have been carefully constructed with the rigors of today's standardized tests in mind. Each test is designed to look and "feel" like the real thing and presents students with a variety of question types that ask them to grapple with information in multiple ways. Matt encourages teachers to take their students to new academic heights and PREPARE SMARTER, NOT HARDER, with Smarter Design Test Prep! 

With high stake testing just around the corner, this would be the perfect time to check out Tied to Teaching and the 30 test prep resources they have available. While you are there, why not become a store follower? In addition, take a few minutes to check out their Facebook page.

Problem Solving - Getting Unstuck!

Math courses are not like other courses. To pass most other subjects, a student must read, understand, and recall the subject matter. However, to pass math, an extra step is required: a student must use the information they have learned to solve math problems correctly. Special math study skills are needed to help the student learn more and to get better grades.

The study of mathematics should emphasize problem solving so that students can use and apply a wide variety of strategies to investigate and understand mathematical content. In this way, they acquire confidence in using mathematics meaningfully and the assurance that they can be successful in math.

But what is a real problem that requires problem solving? A real problem solving problem presents a challenge that cannot be resolved by some routine procedure known to the student and where the student accepts the challenge! Now, there's the dilemma, students who actually accept the challenge and are persistent enough to solve the problem.

What can we, as math instructors, do when students become frustrated, exasperated and discouraged and say they are stuck? Let's look at ten ways to help them get "unstuck".

Top Ten Ways to Get Unstuck
    Free Resource
  1. Re-read the problem. 
  2. Modify your strategy. 
  3. Change your strategy. 
  4. Combine your strategy with another strategy. 
  5. Look at the problem from a new perspective. 
  6. Look at the answer. 
  7. Look at other similar problems. 
  8. Ask for help. 
  9. Wait awhile and then try again. 
  10. All of the above.
Would you like a free resource about study tips? Check out Study Tips You Won't Forget. This resource lists 20 math study tips or guidelines intended to help students succeed in math.