Math Homework

Homework. Every math teacher seems to assign it, and there is plenty of argument about how much is the right amount to assign, and why it’s assigned. Is it to give students time to practice? To build discipline? To get ready for college? Pure torture? Over the past several years, I have assigned different amounts, trying to get it right. There’s a fine balance. Too little homework, and a student may not get the practice needed to really learn the concepts and the skills. Too much homework, and the student can get frustrated and hate math. As a math teacher, the last thing I want is to turn a student off from math.

 My general goal for homework is a combination of the right amount of work and the maximum amount of time. The guidelines should usually come out to a maximum of 30 minutes for Algebra 1 up to 45 minutes for Trigonometry. There may be days that homework takes longer than planned, but that should be rare. No matter what the class, if a student has been working for an hour, I want that student to stop working. That’s right – I want the student to stop working after 60 minutes, and then tell me about it. When a student works longer than I planned on a single assignment, there are a few possibilities for why, and that needs to be figured out. Maybe I just assigned too many problems. Maybe I didn’t explain the concept or skills well enough. Maybe the student lost focus during the lesson, or during the homework.  When a student works longer than I planned on a regular basis, maybe we need to talk about modifying the format of the assignments, or maybe the student simply takes longer to complete the work. Whatever it is, I want to work with each student to make sure that homework is meaningful, assigned only when necessary for practice, and not the source of arguments at home or the reason that a student no longer likes math.
What about the process of collecting, grading, and returning homework? This first week is a little different, because students will have until Monday to complete their homework for this week. Generally, students will turn homework in on Fridays each week. Over the weekend, I’ll grade the homework (checking it for completeness, and checking a few problems on each assignment to give some feedback). Corrected homework should be returned the following week. Students are expected to review the feedback on their homework, and are encouraged to follow up with me to ask any further questions that they may have. Late work will be accepted for partial credit.
There will be an ongoing discussion about homework in all of my classes throughout the year, and I look forward to talking with students about how homework is going for them as often as I can.