Today we had a quiz and a number of my students were quite nervous. Just before class started one girl said to me that she was going to fail the quiz. I reassured her that she was not going to fail. I told her that if she thought about the questions and wrote something down she would do just fine. She didn't buy it. Her response was "No I'm going to fail. I bet I fail. I'll bet you $5 I fail". I smiled at her and told her that I couldn't make that bet because she could easily make things go her way. I was glad to hear her response of "I would never fail on purpose".
As the class worked on their warm-up I thought about how I could guarantee a win on this bet I wasn't going to make. I didn't want to win to get $5 or to say that I was right. I wanted to win to help this student and others who were feeling the same way boost their self confidence. This course is typically comprised of students who don't feel comfortable in math and who don't think they can do math. Today, boosting their self-confidence was my number one priority. As I handed out the quiz I informed them that they would be allowed to use their notebooks. This made many of them feel more at ease and as it turns out, few of them used their notes. I will still get some good information on what they do and do not understand and I will have an opportunity to assess them again at a later date. I'm even toying with the idea of not including a mark on the quiz. I may just provide feedback.