Understanding Grades

What’s my average?

I can’t even tell you how many times I get asked that question by my students.  In one sense, it’s great that the students care about their grades.  On the other hand, this question drives me crazy…and it’s my own fault.

My first 2 years teaching, I had each of my students keep personal grade sheets.  My students knew that every time they got an assignment back they had to record it on their grade sheet and recalculate their average.  It took a couple of weeks of me helping the students, but after the first few weeks of school, it became second nature for my students and they all knew their averages in my class all of the time.  I did not ever have students asking me what their grade was…and it was great!  The most wonderful thing about this system, I found, however, was that the kids really understood their grades in my class.  They “got it” that a daily warmup worth 2 points would barely affect their grade, but that a test would heavily influence their grade.  They understood exactly how they got the grade that they did on their report cards.  My absolute favorite was when some of my better students would actually calculate exactly what grade they needed to get on their next test or quiz to maintain a certain average.  To me that showed true understanding of the point system and averages.

gradesheet example

Soo…you might be wondering why I stopped having my students keep grade sheets….

My 3rd year teaching, my school adopted a new online grade book where the students and parents were able to see their grades on all assignments, as well as their average in the class, at any given time.  I figured that since the online gradebook showed everything I had the students record on their grade sheets, there was no purpose in having them continue to keep track of their grades on their own.

I realize now (in my 6th year of teaching), that it was a mistake on my part to drop the gradesheets.  Yes, my students can login and see their grades online but (a) many don’t check, and (b) the ones who do check don’t have the same understanding of their grades that my former students did.  Not since my 2nd year teaching have I had a student understand their grade well enough to tell me that they need to get a 92 on their next test to end up with an “A” average, and I miss those conversations.

My school year is broken up into trimesters and the 2nd trimester is ending next week.  I will be bringing back the grade sheets 3rd trimester and can’t wait to (hopefully) see an improvement of understanding of grades in my students!

student grade sheet

Click the image above to download this free student grade sheet!

Thanks for reading,


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Personal Percent Problems

Next week is Catholic Schools Week.  I love Catholic Schools Week and all the fun and events that go along with it!  What I don’t love, though, is putting together bulletin boards to display student work for our Open House on Sunday.

I know many teachers really get into decorating their classrooms and putting up fun bulletin boards.  I am not one of those teachers.  I love to teach and plan meaningful lessons, but coming up with bulletin board ideas is soo not my cup of tea!  I don’t do a lot of artsy projects in my math classes so I find it challenging to come up with student work samples to display.

I have been working on percents with my 7th graders for the past couple of weeks, so I decided to turn my absolute favorite aspect of math (problem solving) into a bulletin board idea.  I had the students write their own, original percent word problems that related to something in their lives in class on Friday.  They had to type the problems for homework, title them, and add pictures that related to the problems.  I had them solve the problems, as well, showing all of their work.

I got a great variety of problems from the students and they were very creative with them!  A couple of examples of the types of word problems I got were:

  • From a girl who just got a new dog –  Which is the better buy: a puppy that costs $399, but is on sale for 15% off or a puppy that costs $335 plus 7% sales tax?
  • From a boy who plays baseball – If I get a hit 24% of the time I go up to bat, how many hits would you expect me to get if I went up to bat 80 times?

They came out really cute with the pictures, too.  I haven’t gotten around to hanging them up yet, but it’s on my to-do list for tomorrow.

If you are interested in the project, click on the image below to download the assignment.

percent project pic

Anything that gets the students to make real-world connections to the math they are learning in school is good in my book!  I’m thinking about putting some of the students’ word problems on their percent test next week, too.


Thanks for reading,


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