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What’s That on Your Cart?

What’s That on Your Cart?

When I teach classes on campus, I have a cart that I take to class that has all of my supplies on it, such as highlighters, pens, and papers. But it also has everything I need for the activities I do with my students. One day in March, I was rolling my cart down the hallway after class, and one of my colleagues asked me what I had my students do that they were excited enough that many of them stayed after class to finish. Then another colleague said that I always have interesting things on my cart and asked me, “What’s That On Your Cart?”

So, I started to explain. Last fall, I attended a session at the MichMATYC Conference called “Grading Homework: A Response to Intervention.” During this session, the presenters discussed how they use IF-AT cards with their students. IF-AT stands for “Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique.” Although I had heard about the IF-AT cards before and thought they were a great idea, I never took the initiative to ask my college to order them for my students. But this semester, I was on a quest to implement inquiry-based learning techniques into my classes, and so I thought it would be an excellent time to have them ordered.

My administration’s first question was, “How are these different from scantrons?” So I explained it like this:

These are different from scantron forms. These are more like lottery tickets with a star under the correct answer. I plan to give the students a piece of paper with the questions and the answer choices, and then the students will scratch off the answers until they reveal a star, which means they know they got the correct answer.So, for example, suppose there is a multiple choice question of what is 1 + 1? with the following choices:
  1. 2
  2. 3
  3. 4
  4. 5
If the student scratched off “B,” they would automatically know they are incorrect because when they scratch off “B,” they would not see a star. The student would then continue scratching off what they think is the correct answer until they reveal a star.
I am planning to use these for group work activities in class. So, if it takes a group one try to reveal the star, they would get more points than if it takes them two tries to reveal the star.
I learned about this at a conference a few weeks ago and was told it is successful because the students are more engaged when they have to scratch off the card and because they will know whether they have a correct answer immediately.


My administration agreed to purchase 500 IF-AT cards for me to use as a one-time pilot with my students. Because the pilot got interrupted by world events, the only real measures I have of its success in my classes are all anecdotal. But I was able to use the IF-AT cards three times, and here is what the problem pages looked like for students to use with the cards:

Solving Linear Equations

Evaluating Limits

Implicit Differentiation

So, what was my response to, “What’s That On Your Cart?” It’s something cool that keeps students engaged. In fact, on the day that many of my students stayed after class to finish, I even tried to encourage them to leave on time by telling them I would only grade their IF-AT card based off the number of problems they completed. But they wanted to finish all of the problems anyway. There’s something to be said for knowing in advance that you aren’t going to be left high and dry without knowing the right answer.

And in every group, I observed, when the students scratched off a choice that was not a star, they were flipping through their notes scrambling to figure out what they may have done incorrectly. Interesting things? Yes, that’s what’s on my cart.

By Jon Oaks

College Math Instructor. Tech Enthusiast. Visionary. Creative Genius. But above all, I enjoy what I do. That is why I am a teacher. Because I like to teach.

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