Back in first grade or maybe even kindergarten, I learned the mathematical significance of the plus sign. That little cross somehow meant more, like when 1 + 1 meant a little more than one, or when 1 + 100 meant a lot more than one. (Yes, I realize a plus sign followed by a zero actually doesn’t add anything more, but really – how often do you need to write out an equation that adds zero?)
Fifteen years later, however, plus signs do not carry the same weight. Please don’t take this as bragging, but during my four years at UCSB, I’ve earned exactly two A pluses. I’m not sure exactly why, but for some reason, two separate professors – who totally rock, by the way -have looked at my quarter’s work and said, “This guy did something right.” And that little cross sign got affixed to my A.
Unfortunately, academia doesn’t compute that plus into my grade point average. For the giant robot calculator I imagine figures out our GPAs, that plus sign might as well be a smiley face or a raisin or something. Curiously, it does have value when it’s in front of a B or a C or a D, but not an A, which is arguably the most important letter, seeing as how it’s first and it can mean the difference between getting into a top-notch grad school and settling for your safety school.
I’m fairly certain anybody who could change this policy won’t ever read this column – their loss, I suppose. But I’d be thrilled if the academic community could one day realize that their dismissal of the A plus is mathematical heresy. A change in grading policy could help lessen the blow of that C minus I got for the History 4A class I took Fall Quarter, when I studied beer instead of Babylon.
A more direct solution – one that professors could implement without clashing with university administration – would be to dole out A pluses more freely.
If a student does a superb job, leave a little space next to the A, then draw a little vertical line and then bisect it with a little horizontal line. Or go for the extra keystroke. Or send the proper smoke signal. However, it is that professors at this school turn their grades in at the end of the quarter, be just a little more lenient about recognizing the especially diligent.
Sure, the plus sign still means diddly poop when computing our overall GPAs., but it would be there on our transcripts. And when we apply to grad school or law school or whatever form of further education we want to pursue, those in charge of admissions might see that little guy and give our application a second thought.
A student who has an A+ or two – or five – clearly has the ability to excel in a given class and a desire to work hard. It’s mathematically irrelevant, for sure, but humans at least recognize that an A+ still carries a little weight.
Daily Nexus opinion editor Drew Mackie also carried a little weight until he started going to Jazzercise classes.