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Math Trek

Dropping Lowest Scores

3:19pm, June 9, 2006

As a school year draws to a close, grades are inevitably on the minds of both students and teachers.

When computing final grades, teachers sometimes allow students to drop the lowest score—or even several of their lowest scores—from a sequence of quizzes, tests, homework assignments, or exams. Usually, it's the teacher who makes the decision on which scores to drop in any individual case. If the goal is to maximize a student's score, that's sometimes easy to do. But, in certain situations, it can be quite tricky to tell which score or scores to drop from the total.

In the June Mathematics Magazine, Daniel M. Kane of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Jonathan M. Kane of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater describe some of the intricacies of this problem and present a simple, efficient algorithm for finding the best set of grades to drop. Jonathan is a math professor, and his son Daniel is a student at MIT. Daniel was a member of the U.

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