6.042 Teamwork

The Checkmark Protocol

In a 6.042 class, an important goal is to write on the team whiteboard an "of course" solution to some class problems. Think of a very capable classmate (800 on her Math SAT) at a neighboring table who just didn't how to solve this problem. Without explanation by anyone on your team, she should be able to glance at your team's white board solution and say "Of course."

When everyone on the team feels the answer written on the team whiteboard meets this standard, a designated team member should put a check mark next to it on the team white board. Before check marking an answer, the team member should make sure every other team member has individually signalled "thumbs up" indicating that they now feel they "own" the solution on the board and are ready to defend it if challenged. A problem should not be checkmarked until each team member has given thumbs up.

Note that it is not adequate simply to address the entire team asking whether they all "get it," and look for nods of agreement. The weakness in not polling everyone individually is that team members who harbor doubts often will not respond to the group query because they don't want to hold back the team or seem disagreeable. On the other hand, when asked individually, they will usually be more comfortable withholding "thumb up" when they have doubts, which will allow other teammates to explain things further.

If a student remains unsure about a team solution after a reasonable time of going over it with their teammates, the team should move on. Students whose doubts remain unresolved will get full credit for class participation, but they must send a prompt followup email to their Coach confirming that they have read the posted problem solution and indicating what, if anything, they still find confusing.

After a team answer is checkmarked, the team Coach will review the answer, offer feedback, and/or ask individual team members to defend the answer. The Coach will not ask for an explanation from a student who has indicated continued doubts, 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 is a no-no.
  • No meals may be eaten during team problem solving-they distract both the diner and their 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
    • looked over the lecture slides (and/or optionally watched the video presentations) and
    • done the assigned online MITx 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, was caught using non-class related email, or acted in a way that undermined effective teamwork. Students who gave thumbs up, and are then discovered to have little understanding of a check-marked team solution, may also be given a participation grade of 1 for the day.
  • 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. Each coach generally will give a grade of 3 only a couple of times per team during the entire term.

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MIT 6.042 class material by Albert R Meyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License .
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This document last modified Thursday, 08-Feb-2018 22:11:17 EST