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Class average 56%, 34% of the people got 40% or lower, what does this mean?

  1. Nov 3, 2006 #1
    Hello everyone.

    I was wondering if this is normal to have class averages this low. This professor seems like he's out to fail everyone. We just got back our mid-term and the class average was a 56%, and 34% of the students 77 of them got a 40% or lower on the exam. I managed to pull off a 66%. I need to get a C or better in this course to pass, its descrete mathematics or some call it number theory.

    I know the course material, I do the homeworks and score high on them even compared to the class, my homework average was an 83% which doesn't sound great but he told us if you have an 80% or higher on homework you have a "solid" average.

    In all my other courses i've ever taken I've recieved an A or somtimes a B, now its a totally different situation where i'm just getting by...Sophmore year to Jr. year was a huge change.

    Did anyone else hit these kind of courses that your just going to slide by or did you end up being suprised by your course grade at the end? He told us even if the average score is a 56%, if the class keeps getting around this, he won't make 56%, a C. So I can't just hope for the curve.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2006 #2

    quasar987

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    If there are many people in the class and if most of these people have never done such an intensive proof-based class, then I'd say this is not so surprising. My first exposure to proof-based class was Analysis I and class average was 39% for the midterm.

    Also, class average was ~45 after the final and so he boosted everyone's grade a little such that the average became D+.

    Btw, if your school works like mine, if class average is 40% and you have the highest grade with 70%, that's still A+ or A for you.
     
  4. Nov 3, 2006 #3
    Quasar thats the problem, some people got 100% on the exam! ahh! how could they hah
     
  5. Nov 3, 2006 #4

    quasar987

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    oh!

    They must have taken a harder proof-based class b4 (like real analysis)
     
  6. Nov 3, 2006 #5
    Yeah the averages where really odd,
    100-90 14% of the class
    80's 4%
    70's 17%
    60's 17%
    50-40 16%
    less than 40 34%

    With this distrbution, am I pretty much stuck with my 66%?
     
  7. Nov 3, 2006 #6

    quasar987

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    I's say so.. :(

    But there's still the final. And are there credits for HW?
     
  8. Nov 3, 2006 #7

    mathwonk

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    quit whining and learn the material. the cruel truth is your high school cheated you and now you are in college. if 14% got A's the rest of you need to find out why you are so far behind them.


    those of us teaching college arte faced with a painful reality today;

    graduating high school students in the US know absolutely nothing for the most part, not even how to study or work hard, not even those with AP calculus credit. so what do we do"

    1) teach honest courses and give honest grades, and most people fail,

    or 2) keep lowering the standards of our courses to reach the level of entering students so a fixed number of students can pass.

    unfortunately the second choice makes our students happy only until they try to get the jobs that internationaL STUDENTS ARE COMPETING WITH THEM FOR.

    i have often thought about quitting my job at university and returning to high school to try to fix the problem, but high schools do not want high standards either. everybody wants easy work, easy grades, and no low scores.

    it is not unusual today for over 50% to fail a test that is actually much easier than a comparable test from 10 years ago. almost every year we lower The content of even our phd syllabus at university and still the students perform worse regularly.

    the grade spread in my calc class this year on one test was from 10% to 100%. how can anyone get a 10? and there qere extra points avilable. on a recent test i actually gave 20 extra points, and some people still got less than 60 out of 120. so they failed even though i graded it only out of 100.

    many students do not even show up on fridays. some who do sleep through class.

    do you go to office hours with questiopns? do you do extra homework problems? when i wasa student ia ctually obtained and read, not only the book for our coiusr but auxilioary books on the topic. sometimes i sat through the class for the learning experience when i waqs not atking it. some top students would sit through a class all year the year before taking it to prepare for taking it for credit.

    even after i had passed a class i sometimes sat in on it the next year to elarn it better, or graded it to learn it better. you don't need a C, you need to elarn to study.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2006
  9. Nov 3, 2006 #8
    well, if 35% of the class got above a 70 then the prof may decide not to curve. :(
     
  10. Nov 4, 2006 #9
    mathwonk, I work quite hard for my grades and highschool did not cheat me.

    I have a 3.9 GPA goign into my jr. year, so if I could make it through calc 1-3, diff EQ, matrices, stats, physics mechanics, E&M, and quantum physics and waves as well as all the other BS courses....I don't see how my highschool cheated me.

    I also didn't just now realized "oh crap I gota work, i'm in college." Thanks for the pep talk though.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2006
  11. Nov 4, 2006 #10

    quasar987

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    There's really a course called 'matrices' ?? :rofl:
     
  12. Nov 4, 2006 #11
    Yes Quasar there is, its a 3 credit course actually. I thought all schools offered this course for engineering/math students.

    Yes I do all of these things but your not allowed to sit in on a class. I've tried it and due to class size and space restrictions they won't allow it.

    I don't see how highschool classes would prepare you for proofs by strong induction or any advanced topic in descrete math. The reason some of these students would have gotten such a high score on the exam is because they are math majors with supporting courses that Computer Science majors don't take. The professor even told us this because we asked why the grades were so low and yet some so high.
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2006
  13. Nov 4, 2006 #12

    mathwonk

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    ok nevermind, what do i know? but it seems you are the one with the problem? but of course you think the fault with your professor who wants to fail everyone. brilliant solution, of course it is not your fault.

    how interesting that the most clueless people here all seem to have high gpa or are on deans list. is it possible you are also being cheated by the low standards of your courses in college?


    the give away is whenever anyone says: gosh, a lot of people in my course are failing, is this normal, or is my prof out to fail everyone? then that person is in a state of denial.

    these are the same peopkle who ask the prof "what was the average on this test?" instead of asking "how can i do better?"
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2006
  14. Nov 4, 2006 #13

    quasar987

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    I guess 'matrices' really could be just a name for linear algebra since any n dimensional vector space is isomorphic to R^n and linear maps in R^n are just multiplication by matrices. So it's all about matrices in the end. Cool. :P
     
  15. Nov 4, 2006 #14
    I never claimed it was the fault of the professor. I simply asked, "Did anyone else hit these kind of courses that your just going to slide by or did you end up being suprised by your course grade at the end?"

    I don't see where I ever blamed the professor. All I was looking for was others in my situation who thought they were doing terriable but in the end didn't do so bad.

    Oh yeah i forgot they call it Linear Algebra as well hah my bad.
     
  16. Nov 4, 2006 #15

    mathwonk

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    my apologies. i had a long week and i unloaded on you.
     
  17. Nov 4, 2006 #16
    its alright, I have days like those as well :)
     
  18. Nov 4, 2006 #17
    Ohh God, I hate it when people blame the teacher. Though I'm still in high school, I don't blame the teacher. But many of my peers do. I kinda rely on the teacher to be some inspiration and motivation. I could also be a better student and study more and alot harder than I do (eg right now i should be concentrating on studying but I'm not).
     
  19. Nov 4, 2006 #18

    t!m

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    In all honesty, and especially at this level, I think it makes sense to have a class average this low. It's ridiculous to expect everyone in the class to score in the 80-100 range, because that just defeats the purpose of having a 0-100 scale. So rather than separating the bad grades (~40) from the even worse grades (~20) and cramming all of the good grades into the 80-100 range, why not employ a more even gradation so as to separate the good students from the remarkable students? The difficulty of the test should be such that only the very best student(s) can score near-perfect.
     
  20. Nov 4, 2006 #19
    In organic chemistry 1 we only had 2 tests and the grades were not curved at all. The first test average was 43% with a high score of 74% and 34 people took the test. The average on the final exam was 73% with a high score of 86% and 16 people took the test. Not a single student got an A in that class.
     
  21. Nov 4, 2006 #20
    you can also see the problem with the 80-100 scale in college admissions, why is the competition getting tougher? because there's less of a gradient in the regular transcripts. C used to mean average student, now it means bad student, so all of the scores get crammed into the 80-100 range or even the 90-100 range and the admissions boards can't make out who's really good and who is good.
     
  22. Nov 4, 2006 #21

    Moonbear

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    It's not uncommon to suddenly get hit with courses like this in your junior year. Really, you should have been getting gradually harder classes in your sophomore year as well, but sometimes people also just don't take their classes in the order that is recommended for various reasons, usually scheduling conflicts. Classes are supposed to get harder as you go along. Once you're past all the "general" courses of your freshman and sophomore years, and start getting into the detailed courses for your major, the level of difficulty increases quite rapidly.

    Have you evaluated your study habits? 14% of the class getting in the 90-100% range is fairly high, so that suggests the exam was not impossible or that the material was not inconsistent with what was taught in the class, and further suggests that the professor did teach the material.

    If your other classes have always seemed easy, and you've been able to keep up with the material without much effort, you may have managed to get by without developing the types of study habits you're going to need for the higher level courses. At that level, you're being trained in classes that are highly relevant to your intended profession, so it would be doing a disservice to the profession to let students slip through with incomplete knowledge by grading on a curve, so you shouldn't expect to be graded on a curve. Instead, focus on improving on the next exam to pull up your grade.

    And, really, that grade distribution isn't all that bad. If I saw results like that on an exam I gave, I'd probably say 90-100% was an A (unless those in that 80-90% range were really all in the high 80s, and then I might bump them into the A range too). Then there's a natural cut point, where you'd say maybe a 75%-89% would be a B, 60-74% a C, everyone in that 40-50% range gets a D (was there nobody in the 50-60% range?), and below 40% fails. The gaps may be explained by the relative numbers of certain types of problems, that the best students would be able to answer, and others just wouldn't, or would only get very few points on those.

    And, mathwonk is right, if there are 50% of the student in the course getting less than 50% on an exam, while there are students who can get in the 90-100% range (if everyone was getting below a 50%, I'd suspect a problem with the teaching or exam questions, but clearly the exam was do-able), then it's very likely your prior courses did you the disservice of not adequately preparing you for your advanced coursework (unless you've done yourself a disservice by taking courses out of the recommended sequence). When that high of a percentage of students is failing, they have either been handed passing grades in prior classes without adequately learning the prerequisite material for this class, or were not given sufficient exposure to the types of problems/questions/approaches to the discipline that are needed to succeed in the upper level classes.

    If you can identify some of the students who did well on the exam, it would be a good idea to ask them how they studied the material, if they'd be willing to study with you to help you learn with them, or even what prerequisites they took to find out if you've missed a class in the sequence that's helping them do well in this one (if that's the case, a missed prerequisite, then you might be better dropping the class and waiting until you've taken the pre-req before trying again...no point spinning your wheels if you just haven't had a course you need prior to this one).
     
  23. Nov 4, 2006 #22

    matt grime

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    that would be finite dimensional real vector spaces, then? So not proper linear algebra.
     
  24. Nov 4, 2006 #23

    Integral

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    I have known profs who specifically stated that this was the purpose of a test. The desire was to separate the A's from the B's. Who cares about the D's and F's.

    Such a grade distribution is not all that uncommon, looks like you have your work cut out for you.
     
  25. Nov 4, 2006 #24
    I recall when I took an electrical engineering course on semiconductor devices back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the professor was, for the lack of a better term, insane. He would regularly give exams where the average was 12% or so. No normal distributions here, just exponential ones...

    Over all, I think I had 36% in his course. But he graded on a curve, so despite my demonstrated lack of understanding of what he considered important, I ended up with a rather high A, and very little understanding of semiconductor devices.

    Yes, I feel cheated and blame the professor. :smile:
     
  26. Nov 5, 2006 #25
    The math that schools teach, elementary to high school, only seems to prepare one to take calculus. There is hardly any emphasis on discrete and proof-oriented math. I have been a victim of this myself and have had to make up for it.

    Does anybody agree that ratio of stupid to smart students in college is getting smaller? I mean this guy in my algorithms analysis class actually asked "Is log2(3) always less than 2?" LOL. BWT, I'm sick of people associating grades with knowledge. At least from the high school level.
     
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