### Grading in Math 503, fall 2007

I submitted course grades online late yesterday, Friday, December 21. I hope that students will be able to see the grades soon.
As I wrote elsewhere, "Since part of the purpose of the final was to prepare our first-year grad students for the written exams, I'll return the exams to these students in their department mailboxes" probably after the semester break.
This has been done (1/4/2007). Grades on the final ranged from 20.5 to 58.9 out of 60.

Here is how I concocted the letter grades. The verb concoct means
 1. make by mixing ingredients ("concocted a stew"). 2. invent (a story, a lie, etc.).
I hope my method was more like 1 than 2. I added the homework numbers to twice the exam scores and got a total for each student. This total could be as much as 600 points. Student scores ranged from 385.2 up to 585.6. I sorted the numbers and attempted to distill letter grades from these. The verb distill means:
 1. [Chem.] purify (a liquid) by vaporizing it with heat, then condensing it with cold and collecting the result. 2. a. [Chem.] extract the essence of (a plant etc.) usu. by heating it in a solvent.     b. extract the essential meaning or implications of (an idea etc.). 3. tr. make (whisky, essence, etc.) by distilling raw materials.
I hope I am using the word in the meaning of 2 b.
The letter grades reported seem to reflect student levels of accomplishment and comfort with the material. I believe that the first-year grad students who completed this course should be able to write solutions to most complex variables problems on our written exam, and should also be able to recognize the need to use complex analysis ideas in their own research because they will likely remember enough of the subject. This is satisfactory. Of course, I would love to assert that students have eagerly mastered what was shown, and will enthusiastically spend the next few years doing research in related areas, but learning and thinking about math is good. I supplemented my letter grades with a further message to the Graduate Director since I don't think a grade is enough information.

 Further personal comments I remark that the course and its students have been a very useful and generally pleasant refuge during a personally sucky semester. sucky (as used here) is a relatively recent (1980's) English slang word, by the way, and is listed in the Oxford English Dictionary (the most authoritative historical dictionary of English, available online through the Rutgers library) as meaning "Disagreeable or contemptible; obnoxious or unpleasant". A big portion of my time this semester was spent assisting a close family member who was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer. Much of the grading for the course was done in New Brunswick, at Robert Wood Johnson Hospital and at the New Jersey Cancer Institute. Having a national cancer institute only a few miles away is great, and the treatment rooms are good places to grade, with relatively few distractions. I thank the students for offering a pleasant distraction, and I regret if I was not in Hill Center this semester as much as I usually have been. Get out there and prove a theorem!