This is the sixth and final installment of a mini-series on rubric design and use. Be sure to check out the other posts as well as the initial post.

Your grades are qualitative data, not quantitative data. Whether you’re using a rubric on a complex task, or assigning a number out of 100 from a district-designed multiple choice scantron test, the data you are obtaining is qualitative. It’s not unbiased; it’s not infallible. It’s at best a semi-accurate representation of what students know and can do with mathematics. It is with this attitude that we must enter the scoring of rubrics. Once we acknowledge our fallibility as evaluators, we can engage in the process of evaluation. 

After you score the student work on the rubrics, you record it and pass it back to students. And you say, “this is my evaluation of your skills and knowledge, but it’s not infallible, nor is it absolute, nor is it final. If you think I erred in scoring your work, let’s talk about it. If you’d like to improve your work to achieve a higher score, go for it, and I’ll help!” 

If you’re practicing active caring, you won’t only make this general statement to all your students, you’ll also approach individual students and encourage them to improve their work, or celebrate specific aspects of their work. And since we have an assessment tool that actually gets into specifics, this’ll be much easier than if we are merely grading on correctness-plus-scratchwork. 

If you’re using student portfolios, this is a natural opportunity to include their work along with the rubric. 

I’ll leave you with one final suggestion for evaluating with a rubric: let students evaluate themselves and just go with that score. This isn’t to pass the buck when it comes to scoring but to truly engage students in the metacognitive process. You don’t even have to do this every time. But after a few go-rounds with a rubric, consider letting students give themselves scores. And, importantly, use those scores in your gradebook. It’s ok. Remember, this is qualitative data. And typically students will score themselves harder than you will. 

Designing, implementing, and scoring on a rubric is an advanced teaching technique when done appropriately. It’s a time consuming task, but one that is well worth the time. Rubrics convey what we truly value as math teachers and as mathematicians offer students a guidepost on how to engage in the work of mathematics. 


I hope this mini-series was helpful. I enjoy writing all my mini-series and am always on the lookout for potential deep-dives into aspects of math pedagogy. The content was adapted from various workshops I’ve run virtually and in-person with math departments and whole schools. If you’d like to chat about such workshops, feel free to contact me

Also, feel free to check out my past mini-series on Emergentmath:

Also, if you have suggestions for future mini-series topics, drop a comment or email me.

I’ll probably be taking a couple weeks off of blogging in order to prepare for the upcoming school year. It’ll be a busy one personally. I’ll be teaching a course at the University of Wyoming, delivering professional development to a few districts and schools, hosting a cohort of teachers implementing a portfolio system, as well as taking my own courses and editing, submitting, and revising journal articles for academic publication.

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