This week I have been reading, thinking, and chatting about homework. On Monday I posted some doubts about homework and mentioned that I set homework in accordance with the school policy, which at the moment means I assign it after every class and it is mostly routine practice. Today I participated in a Twitter chat about mathematics homework as part of the #eduread group. The idea of the group is that we read an article each week and then discuss it on Twitter and our blogs. This week’s article was “Homework: A Math Dilemma and What to Do About It” by Patricia Deubel. You can read our Twitter chat on the Storify summary.
Meaningful and Purposeful Homework
The main point that hit home for me was there is no use setting homework unless it is both meaningful and purposeful. I sometimes set homework mindlessly and don’t value it much. I am coming to think that homework should only be assigned if there is a clear academic purpose and the task is not just rote practice.
Differentiation of Homework
Also, homework should be differentiated, says our reading. This is a struggle and I would love to hear from teachers who have managed this. I think my main barrier is the time to do it, but I realised that one way would be a homework task with differentiated products. Students would choose their own method of demonstrating their understanding. This is still an idea in its infancy for me and needs more thought.
26 Good Ideas for Mathematics Homework
During my reading and thinking, I made a list of possible homework tasks.
- read or outline a chapter (pre-learning)
- complete an organizer of a chapter (pre-learning)
- write down questions they have about a reading/activity
- write/diagram all you know about [upcoming topic]
- do a few sample questions and explain the steps
- do practice questions (time-based)
- answer journal questions about something done in class (ask students what was done and why)
- two parts: 1. three problems to check understanding of a concept taught today; 2. ten problems to practice a concept previously learned
- draw pictures/diagrams to illustrate a key word
- create a concept map
- write two problems for others to solve
- list the four most important ideas about ….
- read and write sticky notes for things you have questions about
- design your own learning strategy for a topic covered in class (cards, song, poem, etc)
- create a Q&A game
- write directions that teach someone else
- test corrections: must write why they missed that question, then answer the question correctly
- find examples of … at home, in the news, etc; take pictures of … ; then use these in the next class
- respond to a thread on Edmodo/other VLE asking a question or sharing an idea
- “sandwich” homework: give students the problem and answer and they must fill in the middle
- write a summary of today’s class
- write a reflection of your work in today’s class
- in class, do a notice/wonder activity and generate questions, then students pick one/two to investigate for homework
- a project that shows your understanding
- adaptive online software such as Khan Academy or MathXL
- teacher chooses 3-5 problems, then student chooses another 3-5 from a set
Using Homework in the Next Lesson
Another thing that really struck me started with this quotation: “Homework in the best classrooms is not checked–it is shared.” I was inspired to try to use homework that would generate discussion in the next class. Or it would contribute to the next class’s learning experiences. (Also, I hate checking homework. If the assignment needs to be used for something in the next class then it is kind of “self-checking”.)
Things to do with homework in class instead of collecting or checking it:
- self-assess your homework in terms of effort, understanding, completeness, or accuracy
- reflect on which questions were the easiest/hardest and why
- find a peer who approached the problem differently than you and discuss our strategies
- quiz with 2 randomly selected questions from the homework assignment
- get your peer’s feedback on some aspect of your homework
- work with a friend to get a best answer to one hard question
- give a new problem and ask how it compares to the homework problem(s)
- choose the two homework questions that were most alike or most different and explain why you picked them
- gallery walk of the results of investigates into notice/wonder questions (see idea 23 above)
More Homework Ideas and Links
I am still learning and thinking over these things. (Sidebar: I love being a teacher because I am always learning. Ten years in and I am excited to be learning about good practice in my profession.) Please share your homework thoughts in the comments or tweet me @mathsfeedback.
Here is a list of the things I read this week while thinking about homework:
- “Homework: A Math Dilemma and What to Do About It” by Patricia Deubel
- “Rethinking Homework” by Alfie Kohn
- Five articles by Cathy Vatterott, accessed from her website, Homework Lady
- The homework articles from the archive of The Marshall Memo (subscription required)
Please share one good homework idea!