When you hear of a parent and child sitting for hours at the dining room table finishing homework, it’s rarely science vocab or a social studies reading that is the culprit. More often than not, math homework is at the crux of these late-night sessions.
A few considerations can help our students and families to avoid this seemingly inevitable state of affairs.
Consider The Purpose of Your Homework
It is up for debate whether or not there is an actual benefit of homework. This article from The Atlantic sums up many of the common opposing positions.
If you do choose to send home math homework or if you are required to send math homework with your students, consider your purpose before sending assignments.
- Are you expecting students to gain additional repetition and practice with a concept learned in class?
- Are you hoping to share, with families, a glimpse into your day?
- Are you developing a skill that requires time and repetition such as math facts?
- Are you hoping students will extend their learning beyond what you were able to accomplish in the classroom?
Before assigning homework, be clear about the purpose you are setting and consider if your desired outcome is both reasonable and attainable.
For example, if you are providing homework for the purpose of sharing what you have learned in class with families, however, you know that the majority of your class is completing their homework at an after-school program- your goal is not attainable. Consider what format your homework might take to accomplish this end.
Consider Your Students
Perhaps each day you introduce a new concept in math class, you then send home a practice page that mirrors your instruction to provide additional repetition and practice. This can be a hurtful trap to fall into!
Keeping in mind that practice doesn’t always make perfect, but rather, “practice makes permanent”, is it reasonable to expect that all of your students learned the concept well enough to accurately practice in a meaningful way?
Before sending math homework home to your students, be sure that it is a skill that your students have confidence around. Skills that are moving from “proficiency” to “fluency” might be a better fit for home practice. Your students know what they are doing- they just need the time and repetition in order to make the execution of those skills second nature.
Consider Your Tools
If, in class, your students are working, daily, with hands-on materials and manipulatives, be sure that those same tools are available to your students when they are working at home!
While a student may be confident in subtracting across zeroes when using base ten blocks, expecting this skill to be practiced at home without this support can cause stress and confusion for your students.
I have a set of (free) printable manipulatives that help to bridge this manipulatives gap for your students. Send home the materials that might be needed with a given activity so that your students have the supports and materials that they need.