I assume that you are taking this course in order to learn the material in it. My job is to help you learn as much as you can. In this effort, grading is only incidental. Sometimes it's a distraction.

In order to help you learn, I expect you to:

I understand that grades may be important to you, so I will do my best to keep you informed about where you stand as the semester proceeds. But I won't put numerical or letter grades on each piece of work you submit. Homework will be graded on a check-minus, check, and check-plus system - in general, you should work to get a check or a check-plus. At the end of the semester, your course grade will reflect your work on the following: homework assignments, two in-class exams, term paper, class participation and attendance, and the final exam.

When I began to teach mathematics in 1959 I believed I could use mathematics to calculate my students' final grades. I carefully assigned numerical scores to each homework and each exam question. At the end of the semester I computed a weighted average and assigned letter grades accordingly. (There were no spreadsheets to do the arithmetic.)

The more I did that the more uncomfortable I felt, for two reasons. First, I was never completely happy with what the numbers told me - they often suggested a grade lower than what I felt a student had earned. Second, I found that focussing on the numbers made it seem to me and to the students that the point of the class was to get a grade rather than to learn the material.

In my ideal teaching world, each student is in the class in order to learn as much as he or she possibly can, and I am there to help. There are no grades at all. If a student decides not to learn anything, that's just his or her loss. I assign homeworks and give exams only to teach the material, not to test it.