Key for marking symbols often used on assignments, tests, and quizzes:

Wrong Answer, Right Method (W.A.R.M.)

You made a slight calculation error somewhere in the problem, so your final answer is wrong. However, your method is correct. I usually only take off half marks for calculation mistakes. 


Used when the answer to part (a) is needed for part (b), but (a) is wrong. Your answer to part (b) is correct, based on what you wrote in part (a). 

One Equals Sign Per Line (OESPL or OEPL)

Why shouldn't you write stuff like this: y = 3x + 4 = 3(-2) + 4 = -6 + 4 = -2 ? Compare it to:
y = 3x + 4
= 3(-2) + 4
= -6 + 4
= -2
Which one is easier to read? 

Right Answer, Wrong Method (R.A.W.M.)

You have used an incorrect method to solve the problem, but somehow you got the correct numerical answer. You might get a mark for the answer only, depending on the solution. 

? or ?! or Huh?!

I can't figure out what you're trying to do, or what you are saying doesn't make sense.

Random Walk Solution (RWS)

Please don't hand in "random walk" solution. A "random walk" solution is one where you just free-associate about the problem in question, and write down everything you think of on the assignment sheet you hand in to your instructor. While this kind of free association activity is an excellent way to solve the problem, it is not what I want to see on your assignment. I want to see a clear and concise answer. After you are finished with your free association, and you have solved the problem, then write a concise explanation of your answer. 

I also use this notation when you solve different parts of an equation between the different lines of a solution, such as
y = 3x + 4
3(-2) =-6 + 4
This is bad for several reasons: 1) it's like trying to communicate without verbs, 2) the second line is, in fact, not true. See WATC? below. If you need to work out different parts of a solution separately, do it on the side, not underneath.


What you have written here, while true, is irrelevant to the solution of the problem. This is not a "penalty;" I'm just letting you know that you don't need this stuff. 

Not A Solution

What you have written is NOT a solution of the problem in question. This could be for a variety of reasons. Usually, if there is a more specific reason, I will identify it. Sometimes the whole thing is just silly. 


What you have written is mathematically correct. However, it is perhaps not as "obvious" as you think it is. You must adequately justify every step in your solution. Here, it looks like you skipped a big step. This could be for a number of reasons: Remember that the point of this course is for you to show me that you can solve questions by referring to theory we learned in class. Even if it is "obvious" to you, you must still provide a justification. 

Good idea! or Right idea!

You definitely have the right idea about how to go about this problem, but the mechanical details of your solution need work, or you couldn't figure out how to finish it. Perhaps you made a technical mistake. Check your calculations or your algebra. 


There is an easier way to solve this problem. You have written a correct solution, but you did things "the hard way." With a little bit more thought, you could find a much simpler way to solve the same problem.

I normally don't take off marks for this, since even a long correct solution is still a correct solution. Sometimes I take off a few marks, if it's clear that you completely missed the point of how you were supposed to solve the problem. 

Missed the Point

It seems that you completely missed the point of the problem, and did something totally different. For example, maybe you solved entirely the wrong problem, or spent a lot of time demonstrating something trivial, while neglecting to provide adequate justification for the "hard" part of the solution.

Remember to carefully read the question before you answer it.

Be specific

You have discussed the general case or given me a definition, when what the question is asking for is a discussion of this specific example. I almost never ask you to state definitions. For example, the question asks "What does this y-intercept tell you?" and you say "It is where the line crosses the y-axis." You will get the "Be specific!" comment. See my comments in "How to Avoid Losing Marks." 

W.A.T.C. (What About The Cat?)

You have written a mathematical expression on a page, like this: (x+3). However, it is unattached to any equation or it is unexplained. This is like my saying, suddenly, "the cat." What about the cat? Remember that math is a language and I don't take kindly to your expecting me to know what you're talking about. Your job is to show me you know what you're talking about! 

Sorry, yes

Okay, I'll admit it. I am not perfect. Sometimes I make a mistake and think that you made a mistake. I might cross out or circle your answer thinking it was wrong, then realize that it was right after all, or that this is not where you made the mistake. This is similar to an editor writing "Stet" on a manuscript. Ignore my etchings at that point.

What is Math Form?

Math form is a mark, usually out of 4, that appears on every test. It's that extra mark on the front page. For math tests, it is added to any communications questions. In physics, it will be a separate mark. The mark is essentially an overall evaluation of how well you use math form. I'm looking for things like proper use of equals signs (avoid having too many, not enough, or more than one equals sign per line), proper use of parentheses, graphs titled and axes properly labelled and with arrows, use of formulas, diagrams, significant digits, etc.

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