This morning, I took my third math quiz of the semester. On the last question, I had solved the presented problem but had not written out the answer according to the directions before time was called, so I simply circled the answer that I did have.

Later this afternoon, I got a notice on my phone that my grade on the quiz had been posted. As it turns out, I got 100% exactly. So, I sent a message to the professor pointing out my mistake.

Should I have done that?

  • So you did solve the problem correctly, but didn't write it down in the exact prescribed way? Counts as full credit (perhaps with a remainder of the correct format) in my book.
    – vonbrand
    Jan 29, 2016 at 0:45
  • You did the right thing.
    – Bob Brown
    Jan 29, 2016 at 0:52
  • 1
    Small update: The mistake only costed 0.5 points. He rounded up my score.
    – moonman239
    Jan 30, 2016 at 23:10
  • @moonman239 And the mystery is answered: you were both right!
    – jakebeal
    Feb 1, 2016 at 11:20

1 Answer 1


Whenever I've taught, I would find no problem an action like yours. You might have pointed out a mistake (in which case it's honest and respectable to point it out), and you might have benefited from partial credit (in which case, it's easy for the professor to tell you or to ignore the correction).

I personally would have also found it a delightful breath of fresh air and a break from the students grubbing and grinding for a few extra points, and would feel warm and fuzzy feelings toward such a student. Anybody who teaches ends up with a distorted view of the student population because most of their time is spend dealing with the most problematic and annoying students, while the vast majority of the student body who are having no problems are entirely invisible to them. A reminder of the honesty and integrity of the mostly silent many may thus be quite appreciated.

  • 1
    I guess I'm more cynical than you. If one of my students sent me a message like this, I would feel like they're trying to tell me how to do my job. Students understand that not all mistakes are significant enough to warrant taking points off, and in OP's case the mistake sounds extremely minor. Sending a self-immolating message to the professor strikes me as mostly a way to fish for the compliment "you're so honorable!"
    – user37208
    Jan 29, 2016 at 0:58
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    @user37208 If I got a lot of them, I would probably feel the same. My own experience has been that they are fairly sparse, and that there is a non-trivial subpopulation of students who are just want clarity about their grades, for good or for ill.
    – jakebeal
    Jan 29, 2016 at 1:01
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    @user37208 you are exactly right, your comment sounds rather like the dictionary definition of the word cynical: "believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity."
    – Dan Romik
    Jan 29, 2016 at 1:02
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    @user37208 Even if it may be hard to believe for you, some people are conscientious. Some people are honest. And this "some" can span a wide range of proportions, depending on context and community. My experience is generally good, with rare exceptions. There are students that try to "tell me how to do my job", but I wouldn't consider a student that points out that I overlooked a mistake as belonging to that class. If a diner waiter forgets to include an item in the bill and you as a matter of fairness/honesty point it out to them, are you telling them how to do the job? That doesn't compute. Jan 29, 2016 at 10:12
  • @user37208 even if the student were telling you how to do your job, so what? They're a student. Help them learn why it doesn't matter to you whether they showed their work, so long as they understand the material. Ask them if they have any questions about the material. This is an opportunity for teaching.
    – Tom
    Jan 30, 2016 at 10:36

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