How to Mark Math Scripts?

        By Vic Odarve

Examinations in Mathematics are usually given as problems or exercises. In order to assess their acquired skills, lecturers are not concerned with the memorized facts; instead, they are particular on the details of the solutions on how they arrive in their final answer.

Marking Mathematics scripts soon to follow after the examination

Marking the scripts to follow soon.

Marking Mathematics scripts soon to follow after the examination  In most cases during the final exam, partial credit is available if the solution leads to the correct answer. And the credit depends largely on the judgment of the marker. Points or credits depend on the magnitude of the committed error. This is the same thing for marking essays or discussion types of examinations.

Giving partial points or credits must be above all fair to all students. If the error is near the completion of the correct answer, more points compare to the one committed at earlier stages. Your experience and understanding will guide on how much points or marks you have to give. In some cases, students may get the final correct answer but still the deduction of points is done due to careless or stupid mistakes along the way. Common errors are on algebraic signs, unclear steps of presentation of the details of the solution leading to its final answer.

But in reality more unexpected things in the scripts meet your eyes. Especially on giving partial credits! Sometimes mind-boggling! Several scenarios will crop up. How do you give a partial credits or marks if the mistakes of two or more students are the same? And you discover that they have the same steps of solution from the beginning to end? The scripts are like a photocopy! And what will you do if you come across with correct answer but somewhere along the way of his solution are big mistakes or some of the important steps that supposedly precede the next step are missing? It turns out to a big mess! You will be likened to an archeologist deciphering ancient scripts!  Your judgment and long years of teaching experience come into play! That is to give partial credit or not to give! It largely depends on you! By giving partial points to the imperfect solutions, this does not mean we encourage the students to achieve this kind of attitude. Giving credits simply means measuring or recognizing their acquired skill level.

In real works, a small mistake in a solution sometimes results to astronomical disaster! It might be in thousands or millions of dollars in rework and other related expense! Remember what happens to the Hubble telescope? This is a giant project that gives us the confirmation on black hole existence, improves the calculation of the rate at which galaxies are receding from our Milky Way, and gives the best view images from colliding galaxies in our cosmic ocean. The first picture in space was delay simply due to math error! According to some scientists, a simple mistake in arithmetic–an addition instead of a subtraction! Hence, a tremendous repair was made in space! Marking math scripts is troublesome to many lecturers. Students are sometimes making magic to their solutions and you will be tempted to give or not to give partial credits!   Partial points or credits work only in classroom instruction. The real works need perfection! This is the time that mathematical solution will not be marked.


Place for Marking Scripts

By Vic Odarve

            This is a uniquely African way- lecturers or teachers have to mark or check exam scripts in a designated place!

Designated place where to mark exam scripts

Designated place where to mark exam scripts

This practice is opposite to most Asian and Western countries universities and colleges. Lecturers can bring the exam papers or scripts to their homes or any places to do marking or checking. But here in Africa, most universities and colleges has a designated place where to check/mark the exam papers. Nobody is allowed to bring exam papers outside. The reason is clear…to avoid outside interferences especially students.

    History has something to do with it. Corruption and bribery brought havoc in almost all countries in this part of the continent in the past few years. Lecturers or teachers from universities and colleges were not spared from bribery. Students bribed their teachers to raise the scores or to pass the failing grades. It became the reality of day to day teaching profession. Bribery, maybe at its peak and it’s difficult to eradicate! Government offices were rife with corruption. Even educational institution! Bribery was so strong and widespread that Christian schools could not live with it. That was before!

             As part of preventive measures and uphold Christian values and integrity of the schools, marking of scripts is now done at the designated place.

 Just like the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah! The cried of its wickedness was so strong such that it reached the Lord in heaven. What did God do? God came down from heaven with two angels to personally visit the two biblical cities and did something about it! Read Genesis 18: 20-21.

 20 Then Yahweh said, “How great is the cry for justice against Sodom and Gomorrah! And how grievous is their sin!

21 I am going down to see if they have done all that they are charged with in the outcry that has reached me. If it is not so, I will know.”

 So this school is on the right track! Measure to discourage bribery! This is the reason why student population increases every year. It is flowing like a river! It succeeds in educating our younger generation. It upholds Christian values and keeps students morally upright. This is it! Marking exam papers must be in one place! A uniquely African way!

Kneel and Ask Forgiveness?

By Vic Odarve

Uniquely African practice!  Kneeling and asking forgiveness for violations or mistakes is a common practice among college students.

It was a final examination day in Mathematics! Amid a hot and crowded exam room, I saw two students copying answers with each other. Without warning, I confiscated their papers. Then they knelt before me and said,” Sir, we are sorry”.

Engineering students

Engineering students

 I have not yet decided on what punishment would I take, but they were there kneeling before you! Then I told them,”Stand up, do not kneel before me, stand in front of the class until I tell you to sit down”.

I was caught by surprise as I have not experienced students kneeling before me for several years of teaching in university/college in our native soil. But this is an African country! They have their own way of practice.

In most parts of the world, it is one of the customs to kneel to a person who is older or in authority as a sign of respect. Kneeling is often associated with reverence or submission. In religion, kneeling is associated with worshiping. It is an expression of submitting yourself to the Almighty.

 But college students are kneeling here! Students kneeling before the teachers are  a common sight in African colleges and universities, according to one of my colleagues, an African lecturer. This could be the practice since time immemorial as this continent was once ruled by kings and queens who were revered like God by the constituents. These constituents are kneeling before them for some reasons.

Final Exam

Final Exam

 Perhaps there are no other more profound forms of pleading or asking forgiveness or help from a person in authority than kneeling. When you see college students kneeling before a teacher and pleading for forgiveness for the mistakes they committed, the teacher simply cannot ignore. We have to balance our assertiveness in exercising our authority in the classroom at the same time being approachable. That is establishing a limit, a boundary or red lines!

  Even Jesus, seeing a woman kneeling before him, did not simply ignore since he sees the action comes truly from her heart. Read the  Matthew 15;22-28;

 22 Now a Canaanite woman came from those borders and began to cry out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”

23 But Jesus did not answer her, not even a word. So his disciples approached him and said, “Send her away: see how she is shouting after us.”

24 Then Jesus said to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.”

25 But the woman was already kneeling before Jesus and said, “Sir, help me!”

26 Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to the little dogs.”

 27 The woman replied, “It is true, sir, but even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their master’s table.”

28 Then Jesus said, “Woman, how great is your faith! Let it be as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

Madonna University,Nigeria,Africa

Madonna University,Nigeria,Africa

 Are these college students using kneeling as a smart way of admitting the mistakes and needing immediate forgiveness? Does kneeling, an action asking forgiveness or reverence, come true from their hearts? Are these new generations of college students redefined kneeling on their favor? Nobody knows!

Kneeling and asking forgiveness… its African way of life.




Below are the top 5 performing students in Engineering Mathematics 1 for the school year 2012-2013 First Semester Batch. Engineering Mathematics 1 class consists of 480 students from different Engineering Departments. Performance was based on Continuous Assessments (CA) and Final Examination result. Final Exam was given last March 4, 2013 at the University Exam room.


   PLACE                  REG. NO             30%CA        70%FINAL       TOTAL                                                                                                                                                     

                1                              CHE/11/018        26                           66                           92

               2                              PTE/11/144         29                           62                           91

              3                              PTE/11/026         28                           62                           90

          4                                  EE/11/119            28                           61                           89

                                               PTE/11/078         27                           62                           89

           5                                EE/11/070            26                           62                           88


Posting the performance results makes students feel like climbing a ladder. Noting their names as top performers will raise their adrenalin of studying more. Much more, posting their names as good performers will also boost their confidence such that most of them invite their parents to visit the website and see their names posted. And seizing this opportunity, students feel they have more bargaining power to secure more allowance for the next semester. “This is how you would like to be on top performing students”, exclaimed one of the students. Top notch students are heads up, often smiling wherever they go, and feel that even birds and trees are following them also smiling. Students do this to the glory of God in the Highest!

Keep up the good work. Congratulations!


Professor, Mathematics- Computer Science and Engineering

Madonna University, River State, Nigeria, Africa