Asee peer logo

Simpson's Paradox and Equity in a Classroom: When Dropping the Worst Homework is Prejudicial to Your Students

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

IED Technical Session: Preparing Courses for the Future

Tagged Division

Industrial Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Javier Rubio-Herrero St. Mary’s University, San Antonio Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Javier Rubio-Herrero, Ph.D., joined St. Mary's University in 2017 as an Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering in the Department of Engineering.

Dr. Rubio-Herrero completed his Ph.D. in Operations Research at Rutgers University. Previously, he received a M.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.S. in Industrial Engineering from the University of Seville (Spain).

Before joining St. Mary’s, Dr. Rubio-Herrero worked at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, where he applied optimization and machine learning techniques to a diverse array of areas such as national security, deep learning, and energy. He also has experience in industry (in the context of supply chain and manufacturing) and in the public sector, where he was part of the Transport and Energy unit at the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies.

Dr. Rubio-Herrero has published articles in journals and conference proceedings, and serves as an active reviewer in peer-reviewed publications. His research interests deal with the applications of optimization and operations research techniques to solve engineering problems.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Dropping the worst homework, or the homework with the lowest grade, is a common practice that instructors do when they intend to increase their students' grades. The following article shows that if this measure is taken at some stage during the course, other than at the end of it, the grade of some students worsens after dropping their worst homework and the perception of their performance is biased. To illustrate this phenomenon, we provide an example in which this decrease can be of almost 4% and we find that this effect is more felt if a student has performed poorly in a midterm exam, i.e. it targets those to whom this policy is supposed to help. While in terms of equality this policy is usually extended to all the students, we conclude that its performance fails when it comes to assessing its equity. This is due to the effect of the so-called Simpson's Paradox.

Rubio-Herrero, J. (2018, June), Simpson's Paradox and Equity in a Classroom: When Dropping the Worst Homework is Prejudicial to Your Students Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30964

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2018 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015