Other uses for tokens

People at my school have been talking about Specifications Grading lately. One aspect of it is the idea of creating a token economy to create an artificial scarcity on resubmissions (this is both to lessen the instructor’s grading load and to give the student an incentive to give an honest effort on resubmissions).

Tokens might be a solution to a problem: philosophically, I want a student’s grade to be based on the mathematics they know. However, there are behaviors that correlate to success, and it would be nice to give an incentive to do these things (attendance and participation are two common examples). Instead of giving grades for things like attendance, perhaps we could give tokens to reinforce “good” behaviors?

We have been thinking about ways that students can “mine” tokens. Here are some examples:

  1. Students can get one token for finding a mistake in your course notes/solutions/whatever.
  2. In an IBL classroom, there may be a problem that is unsolved for a while. You can place a “bounty” on that problem by offering a token to any student who successfully presents a solution.
  3. Students can get a token if they send a picture of themselves working in a study group outside of class.
  4. Students can get a token for posing a particularly interesting conjecture.

If you have enough of these, you might even start with an artificially low number of tokens to require them to do these things.

Of course, there are drawbacks to this. Starting with a low number of tokens would likely disadvantage less organized students who might need the most help with resubmissions. I suppose that I should also say the words “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” here, too.


  1. What other ways could students mine tokens?
  2. What other disadvantages does mining tokens have?

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