Since we are interested in the fundamental concepts of the calculus, producing a correct numeric result is not the primary measure of success. Instead, the process that leads to the answer will play an important role in all the materials you turn in for homework and on quizzes and exams.
A correct answer with an incorrect method or explanation will receive little credit, while a correct method with minor errors leading to an incorrect answer will receive more credit. Your ability to explain what you are doing will be taken into account in awarding partial credit; if I have to guess about whether you understood what you wrote, you will receive less credit. If you do not include an explanation of what you have done, you will lose points as well.
A correct answer with an incorrect method or explanation will receive little credit.
Many students feel that it is better to say something, even if they know it is wrong, in hopes of getting some partial credit; however, this really makes you look like you don't know what you are doing. It is far better to admit that you don't know how to do a problem and get extra help from me, either from explanations that I write on your homework, or from coming to see me during office hours.
If you can't do a problem, I will give you partial credit for saying "I don't know how to do this problem" provided you give a brief explanation of what you think it is that you don't understand; the better your explanation, the more credit you will get.
In high-school, the grading practice frequently is to start with full credit and take points off for things that you do wrong. This is not the way I grade. In general, I will award points when you say something that is correct and take off points when you say something incorrect, and provide a final score that reflects the level of understanding exhibited in your write up of the problem. If you say some good things and some bad things, you may end up right back where you started. It is to your benefit to think carefully about what you say.
I will try to write lots of comments on your work before I turn it back. You should remember that this is to try to help you understand where you have made errors, so if there is a lot of red ink on your paper, try not to take this to mean that you are a terrible math student or a bad person. It is my job to make these kinds of comments, and it is the only way to learn where you need to work harder. Because of this, I spend most of my time writing about what you did wrong, so you may not see as many "good jobs" as you would like to see, and it may seem that I'm picking on you. Remember that I am trying to help you understand where your work is the weakest.
My marks have the following meanings:
When you say something that I was looking for, I'll put a checkmark next to it to indicate this. Lots of checkmarks is a good thing. Some students have told me that in their high schools a check meant a mistake; here it means that something is correct, so don't be confused.
If you say something particularly well, or say something perceptive or beyond the material that I expected you to include, I'll say "good job" or "nice observation" or some such thing. I do not say this simply because you got a problem right, but because you did something beyond what I expected.
If I say "OK" rather than giving a checkmark, this means that I'm accepting what you say only grudgingly. Usually it means that what you said is true but that you have not fully explained it, or that there are subtleties that you have not seemed to grasp. It may also mean that there is a better way of saying this, or a better reason to use. It may also mean that what you say isn't quite true, but is wrong for technical or subtle reasons, and I'll let it pass. You may want to ask me more about why what you did isn't quite right.
If I put a red circle around the problem number on your paper, that means I have included a copy of your solution in the notebook outside my office as an example of a good solution for the other students to review. I will not include your name, but if you still don't want me to include your work in the notebook, please let me know, and I'll remove it.
As always, if you don't understand something that I've written on your paper, or if you can't read my writing, please come see me about it and I'll try to explain it.