6.042 Spring '15 Checkmark Protocol

In 6.042, your goal is to write problem solutions that are clear and concise. A good guideline is to consider a very capable classmate (800 on her Math SAT) at a neighboring table who just doesn't see the solution to this problem. She should be able to glance at your team's solution and say "Of course."

When everyone on the team feels the answer written on the team whiteboard meets this standard, they put a check mark next to it on their board. Before checkmarking an answer, the person who wrote it on the board should go round the table and ask each team member individually whether they are ready to defend the answer as written. A problem should not be checkmarked until each team member has confirmed it.

Note that it is not adequate simply to ask the entire team whether they all 'get it.' The weakness in asking a question not directed at anyone in particular is that team members who harbor doubts often will not respond because they don't want to hold up their teammates. On the other hand, when asked individually whether they are ready to explain the solution, they will usually indicate when they don't fully understand it.

A student who feels unsure about a team solution after going over it with their teammates may abstain, rather than endorse, a checkmarked team solution. They should notify their TA/LA that they have abstained before the TA/LA goes over the checkmarked solution. Students who abstain get full credit for class participation providing that they send a prompt followup email to their TA/LA confirming that they have read the posted problem solution and indicating what, if anything, they still find confusing. (They get full participation credit even if they are still unsure.)

After an answer is checkmarked, the team TA/LA will review the answer, offer feedback, and/or ask individual team members to defend the answer. The TA/LA will not ask for an explanation from a student who has abstained, though they may ask for a brief indication of where the student got lost in trying to understand the team solution.

The whole checkmark protocol is designed so team members can more effectively help each other learn the class material.


  • The team experience is supposed to be educational and enjoyable. Students should contact their team coach and/or the instructor about any happening in their team that undermines this for them.
  • Laptops and tablets are encouraged for reference to class materials. But using them for email, social media, or other non-class activities will lower the culprit's participation grade after a first warning.
  • No meals during team problem solving-they distract both the diner and his team mates. Drinks are OK; so are bite-size snacks like cookies.

Grades for Class Participation

Class participation is assigned a grade from 0 to 3:
  • 2 is the standard full credit grade for arriving in class reasonably prepared and participating in the team problem solving. Reasonably prepared means a student has
    • done, but not necessarily studied, most of the assigned reading, and/or
    • watched any assigned video presentation (unless they have learned the material so well from the reading-and can demonstrate this in class-that the video is unnecessary), and
    • done the assigned online tutor problems.
    We expect 90-95% of participation grades on any given day to be 2's.
  • 0 means absent.
  • 1 means attended, but was obviously unprepared, fell asleep, or acted in a way that undermined effective teamwork.
  • 3 means there was some extraordinary accomplishment, for example, coming up with a problem solution or suggesting an improvement to a problem better than any known to the staff. Grades of 3 are rarely assigned.

Students who do not abstain and whom the TA/LA finds cannot adequately explain a checkmarked solution, may be given a participation grade of 1 rather than 2 for the day.

Creative Commons License
MIT 6.042 class material by Albert R Meyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License .
For website issues, contact the

This document last modified Saturday, 17-Feb-2018 20:51:35 EST