Comment Codes

Recently on Twitter, in the Principles to Actions (#NCTMp2a) slow math chat, the topic of Comment Codes came up.  The first week of March, Question #3 was, “What are some ways to response to student thinking in your classes?”

I remember reading on Fawn Nguyen’s (@fawnpnguyen) website Finding Ways that she grades using a highlighter.  During the Principles to Actions math chat, Frank McGowan (@frankmcgowa) talked about using comment codes.  Instead of writing the same questions and comments on EVERY SINGLE PAPER, Frank attaches a code to each comment or question. I believe he collaborated with his English Department on this.  Then when the assignment is returned, he gives them a reflection sheet which includes the codes.

So here is how I applied the same idea in my class this weekend as I was grading.  Frank, maybe you can offer your insights as well.

I gave a quiz on proportionality.  Every time I wanted to write down a comment or question, I wrote it one time on a separate sheet of paper and numbered them.  It looked like this:

  1. Where would the decimal be in $4?
  2. Is there a more efficient way?
  3. How could you label the picture?
  4. Why divide these numbers?
  5. If it’s 12 ft 6 inches, how would you represent that as a decimal?
  6. what would it look like if you used ratios?
  7. What properties must proportional relationships have?
  8. No sure I understand your strategy.
  9. How could you use the diagram to help you?
  10. What are you multiplying 4 and 7?
  11. What does the 2.5 represent?
  12. How is this like Growing Rectangles?
  13. Can the same situation be both True and False?
  14. Why multiply by 16 instead of 15?
  15. Does your answer represent seconds, hours or minutes?

These questions were all specific to one quiz.  So next to the question they got wrong, I put the number of the question(s) next to the problem so they would know how to address their mistake, or reflect on their work.



It might be better to label them a., b., c., …etc. as when they are numbered it can be confused with point value.  This took less time and I found it to be way more efficient.  You can also make the comment codes key more of a reflection worksheet in which the students have to interact with the questions you asked them to understand their mistakes.  There are lots of opportunities here for students to develop their learning.

Thanks Frank, Andrew and Robin for chatting about this.


4 thoughts on “Comment Codes

    1. Mathconfidence,
      This task/lesson was from MARS and is a 7th grade task. I did not let them use calculators on this one. As we got deeper into proportionality where numbers were no longer friendly, I let them use calculators as I wanted to assess conceptual understanding, not computation. Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner, the notifications went to my junk folder (my fault). If you’d like, I can email you the lesson Monday (4/11).


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