2015-07-26

Play The Maryland Extra Credit Problem

A screenshot of a class problem from the University of Maryland has been doing the rounds. The teacher invites the students to vote to receive extra credit:

Here you have the opportunity to earn some extra credit on your final paper grade. Select whether you want 2 point or 6 points added onto your final paper grade. But there's a small catch: if more than 10% of the class selects 6 points, then nobody gets any extra points. Your responses will be anonymous to the rest of the class, only I will see the responses.

This situation is a little different than the Prisoner's Dilemma made famous in Game Theory because nobody stands to lose anything. All outcomes are either neutral or a gain. From that vantage point the best course of action is to always vote for six points. However, I think there are some political dynamics at play that might alter your decision to decrease the likelihood of the neutral outcome.

Depending on your expected final grade, here's my advice on how to play:

If you're a troll then go for six points. #YOLO

If you're a high scoring student (A / A+) then select 2 points. You don't need the extra marks. You're doing so well that you're above all this competitive stuff. Give the other people a chance for a few extra points. Unless, you reckon that people should have to earn their place and you think the mountain top has room for only you... then go for 6 points.

Jo Beeplus: Always go 6 points. You stand to lose nothing if it ends up nobody gets any bonus points and you might just get the six points to your grade into A territory. You work hard, you deserve a shot at an A right?

Jo SeePlus: Go for the 2 points. You might need the bonus marks to ensure you pass so you don't want to risk getting zero bonus points.

Jo "NearFail": Go for six points. You might get them and two points or zero points won't make a difference.

Jo "TotalFailure" You're so far behind you should give others a shot to shine: go for 2 points. Unless you're spiteful.

Bonus evilness karma if you vote for 6 points while talking up a big game regarding the virtues of choosing 2 points.

Go play!