Paying off the math mortgage

A student who doesn’t quite make the grade can borrow grade points from the teacher at a primary school in Shanghai.

Students who do poorly on a test can ask their teachers to lend them a few points to improve their grade, but twice as many points must be paid back on the next test, assuming they achieve a better mark.

If they don’t, interest on the loan continues to run at 100% per test until it is paid off.

It is reported that about 40% of students at the school have taken out such loans.

One 10-year-old earned an extra 19 points on a test to pay off her “maths mortgage.”

Tyler Cowen wants to see a free market in grade points, with students allowed to trade and borrow among themselves.

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  1. This is questionable to me……being that grades are meant to be an indicator of progress. And borrowing grade points from the teacher is about as sound as borrowing blood pressure readings from the doctor.

    But it could be an excellent lesson in debt. (I might be refused entrance to my 30th high school reunion because of unpaid debts on my honors physics debacle….)

  2. D Anghelone says:

    I guess that failing the course is equivalent to kneecapping if you can’t handle the vig.

  3. D Anghelone explains why this is, in the long wrong, a wonderful lesson plan.

  4. oh great.. let’s teach our kids a lifestyle of living on credit even before they hit high school

    this is fine, assuming a child has the potential to improve scores.. but most children are consistent with test results.. having a child ‘borrow’ points requires more effort in the future just to maintain the same level of recorded performance.. if the child is truly consistent, his grades will continue on a downward curve, due to interest applied

    potentially, the pressure from watching his grades going down will have the same effect as credit card debt has on many adults, causing them to give up hope of regaining financial independence, and declaring bankruptcy

    or was grade point bankruptcy the intended lesson? being able to wipe your grade point clean and start over fresh one time during your K-12 enrollment.. interesting

  5. Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    It’s just a cheap trick to defer a reckoning for bad performance. I can’t imaging this scheme being allowed to go on and on, increasing the ‘debt’ semester after semester, without the administration eventually caving and allowing graduation with the ‘repayment’ arrears laughed off and forgotten.

    Oh, hey, it’s Shanghai, not San Francisco. Maybe they really mean it. Student self-esteem may be more connected to learning than to collecting gold stars.

  6. It appears that this only works if you have a system where you’re graded simply A,B,C,D, or F, and where your term or semester grade depends on how many of each you made, not on how high or low the A’s or B’s were.

    The example was a student who borrowed one point to get up to “excellent” for a single test, but will now have to get two points above. In a numeric system, it makes no sense to do this, unless tests are unequally weighted.

  7. I guess it’s not too surprising that so many Americans don’t get it. The idea is to spur the student on to greater effort. It also assumes that greater effort will lead to a better score, allowing the student to be able to repay his debt. Sounds like a great idea to me, although the free market between students… no, I don’t think so.

  8. aschoolyardblogger says:

    I am not too keen on this idea in the classroom, unless your main target is teaching free-market principles and competition, but I can see the model being used as a way for failing schools to barter with their districts. They turn in a solid plan for improvement, barter on their test scores to keep the test people from shutting them down, or something like that.

  9. Speaking as a math-phobic, it seems a whole lot easier to just learn your math for the test.

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