Math Homework Controversies

Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by SF_Giants66, Oct 3, 2014.

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  1. SF_Giants66

    SF_Giants66 Cohort

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    My classroom management professor talked to us about studies done on the effectiveness with math homework, and stated that many teachers believed it was for the purpose of practice and drilling, that what ends up happening to many students is they practice it incorrectly and have to relearn while undoing the incorrect habits.

    What kind of confuses me is if students struggle with math, they don't understand it in one day, they end up more confused when doing homework, and at the same time they need practice and repetition skills to get the problems done right while there not being enough time in a school day or class period to cover what is needed, then what is the answer? I thought that is what text books and modules were for, so they could give them step by step instructions when the teacher isn't available.

    My professor doesn't believe we should give homework at all. She pretty much doesn't believe in just about anything, let alone homework.
     
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  3. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I'm not a huge homework proponent, either. In my experience, most of the students who complete the homework are those who understand the concept and don't need the practice. Those who don't "get it" either don't do the homework or do it incorrectly.

    In my math classes, my students are rarely all working on the same thing at the same time. I give a short (10-15 minutes) lesson, then students work on follow-up activities--games, partner practice, problem-solving--while I am able to work with students who are struggling. While there is, occasionally, math homework, it is minimal and I am sure that the student understands and is able to complete it independently.
     
  4. Pisces_Fish

    Pisces_Fish Fanatic

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    I think there's some truth to what your professor is saying. You might also find your school or district gives you no choice. I am required to send home math homework Monday-Thursday. I try to differentiate but the vast majority of my kids get district-written math homework based on that day's lesson. Thankfully, they're short. Our 2nd grade homework lately has been 3-4 word problems or 10-12 simple arithmetic problems.
     
  5. GTB4GT

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    I believe in HW for math classes like trig, stats, calculus etc. In our school teachers are loathe to give homework because our kids won't do it or copy it from others. so our kids don't get HW (inmates running the asylum imo).

    So we have juniors and seniors who have made A's without ever cracking a book at home. I give the upper level classes "lots"* of HW so can do the drills, learn to use their books as a reference tool, etc.

    * The 8 seniors in my calculus class told me this week they were going to drop my class due to its HW workload. When i asked them, on average, how much time each assignment took outside of the class, they all agreed it was about an hour for each assignment. Keep in mind, we are on modified block so this works out to be 1/2 hour each day that I require of our "best and brightest".:dizzy: Yet they all want to go into engineering or med school in the future.:lol:
     
  6. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    Devil's advocate here...how many classes do these students have each day? If each class gives at least 1/2 hour of homework each day, that could conceivably end up being several hours homework each night?
     
  7. ready2learn

    ready2learn Comrade

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    I look forward to reading this thread because many of the math teachers I know give much more homework than I give. I will give homework 2 or 3 nights each week, but even then my guess is what I give takes most students about 10 minutes to complete. My personal experience is just that a lot of homework doesn't do a lot to improve students' skills.

    I will agree with what Pisces said about many schools having a requirement on the amount of homework. My current principal likes homework but hasn't set a school requirement about it yet. I used to work in a school that required a certain number of homework assignments per week to be written in the lesson plans. (However, I don't remember that number)
     
  8. 2ndTimeAround

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    Sometimes when I assign homework I will upload an answer key on my website. Students can copy the answers, but I still require them to show the work. I've told them that if they get two or more wrong in a section they can stop, come by before school and we'll do one together. They can finish the rest.

    I'm curious SF - is this professor one of those former teachers that spent about five years in the classroom before realizing she couldn't handle it?
     
  9. GTB4GT

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    as I mentioned, the other teachers generally don't assign HW because our kids won't do it. Which leads our kids to think that work outside of school is cruel and unusual punishment.
     
  10. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    Homework, if given, should be to reinforce, not to teach. If students aren't very capable of doing a specific type of problem, it shouldn't be on homework. Since I'm required to give homework, I usually try to do homework on past concepts, to keep them fresh for the kiddos. So the homework I give them in December may be on something they learned back in October.
     
  11. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    We are supposed to provide homework, though it is also required to be work that student know how to do (I.e. practice). Our curriculum is great because it has differentiated homework - regular practice and then enrichment and a special reteaching page for those that might still be struggling. The latter one contains the content we learned so that they have more scaffolding and, if the parent wants, they can try to work with their kid. The homework is always just practice of already learned content though and 10-15 minutes worth (upper elem)
     
  12. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    If they can manage As without homework than either A) the homework obviously isn't necessary or B) grades aren't actually reflecting learning.

    In either case the homework is not the problem.
     
  13. SF_Giants66

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    I'm not sure if she was a teacher. All I know for sure is she was a school psychologist before a professor.

    So far we've gathered she doesn't believe in homework, detention, silent lunch, taking away recess, office referrals, sending kids out of the classroom for bad behavior, calling parents about bad behavior, or reward slip incentives (such as those pieces of paper kids collect and redeem).

    She hasn't said those all at once, but mentioned each of those at one time. I agree with her on some of those.
     
  14. SF_Giants66

    SF_Giants66 Cohort

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    The thing is though that I do believe practice outside of school builds repetition and makes mistakes less likely on tests, or at least did for me. So, I just wanted to know what the solution really is if there is no homework.
     
  15. GTB4GT

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    totally agree. In higher levels of math there are simply too many permutations and combinations of problems to work them all in the classroom. Imo, you have to work a lot of problems to be able to deal with all the possibilities. if the kids can only work exactly the types of problems that they have seen worked in the classroom is that really learning? or memorization? Don't get me wrong, there is great value for doing work in the classroom and I try to budget time for that, it's just not possible to squeeze into all into classroom time.

    If you confine all the work to the classroom setting, then you don't get to cover your standards. You could spend weeks on just one lesson to see and solve all the variations of problems in calculus or other branches of higher math.And that is not getting the kids ready for college. in engineering school, I have worked on ONE problem for 6-8 hours. and there were 4 problems on the assignment. again, just my opinions. ymmv.
     
  16. UCLACareerChngr

    UCLACareerChngr Comrade

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    I will speak as a father with a 4th grade daughter who is struggling in math. I love the fact that she gets homework, because it gives me a chance to work with her and see firsthand what she is struggling with.

    But, I also feel like I have a teacher's viewpoint, which is different than my wife...My wife wants to make sure that she ends up with the correct answer on all of the problems, while my attitude is "if she can't figure it out, then I want her to write what she thought, and then make sure that the teacher knows she doesn't understand it."

    I love getting the chance to see how she is reasoning through problems, and then getting the chance to help her. But, my help is not how I learned to do the problem, but rather, I say "tell me how your teacher taught you to do this." So, without HW, I would have no idea how the teacher is teaching, which I think is very important, since common core seems to be coming up with different methods of problem solving than we have been exposed to as students ourselves.
     
  17. vickilyn

    vickilyn Magnifico

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    Awesome answer and even more awesome parent supporting education - job well done!
     
  18. swansong1

    swansong1 Virtuoso

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    How is she teaching you how to function in the classroom...what DOES she believe in? It seems that she has never stepped a foot in the classroom.
     
  19. ms.irene

    ms.irene Connoisseur

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    I face a similar dilemma in my world language classes...It's very rare that students will have anyone at home who can help them with French homework, so in my experience, of the kids that do the work, at least half will do it totally wrong or just try to copy from the internet, and the half that do it right already knew what to do anyways, so it was essentially a waste of their time. I teach on a block period so there is usually ample time for us to at least start on independent practice in class, and then if there is homework, it should be a continuation of what we started together and I will already have checked for understanding. I don't think giving homework just for the sake of giving homework is helpful in this instance.

    My English classes have a reading assignment almost every night with an assignment which is to apply an active reading skill (questioning, annotating, vocabulary, etc). But again, we usually start in class and I will always model the assignment for them until they know what to do.
     
  20. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

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    When it comes to homework my personal philosophy is that homework is for practice. You should be able to choose not to do it if you don't feel that it is time well spent.

    For instance, in many college physics courses I've taken, homework isn't required to be done, but be damned if you don't fail the tests if you didn't complete the homework.

    Now, with young students, they don't have the maturity to make these connections between homework, learning, and grades just yet (or even the importance of good grades), and if they don't complete the homework they can end up with a lot of harmful gaps in their knowledge for later on. They do need to be required to complete the homework, and for that purpose I require homework in my class to be completed.

    But I also make the homework worth almost nothing, and a lot of it is student self-graded to instill the idea that the homework is purely for practice and learning and not a make or break thing.

    I think by the upper High School grades, homework should be assigned, but be optional to let them start finding out why doing the homework even when it's not required is useful.
     
  21. SF_Giants66

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    She worked with some of the most challenging behavioral issues such as kids who freaked out and had violent meltdowns in class to children who were being sexually abused at home.

    She generally seems to spend a lot of time critiquing every classroom discipline method out there.

    What I gathered is that she believes in the importance of having class rules as it is part of the state teacher evaluation standards, and that she feels it is important for teachers to establish a personal relationship with each student.

    I don't recall her necessarily giving her opinion on which is the best method of classroom discipline or dealing with behavior.

    However, as far as math is concerned, she definitely is against homework. For the person that mentioned their college physics homework not being required, I agreed and actually preferred if I didn't have to do all my Calculus homework when I knew what I was doing. Unfortunately I just think that many kids simply won't do their homework that they should be doing if it isn't for a grade. My 8th grade teacher for Algebra had a bit of a creative system. If you had an 88% or higher in the class, you were able to skip one homework problem. If you had a 92% higher, you were able to skip one-third of the homework problems. If you had a 96% or higher, then you could skip two thirds of the homework problems. This generally helped in the sense that when I was getting an A in the class, I didn't need to do every practice problem that was assigned.
     
  22. YoungTeacherGuy

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    I've seen the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding homework.

    I've met teachers who assign LOADS of homework--a huge packet for the week.

    I've seen other teachers who assign homework that is far too confusing because: a) the concept hasn't been taught yet or b) the concept was only briefly introduced and the kids need much more exposure before they're able to practice it correctly on their own.

    Then, I've encountered teachers who share the same belief that I firmly adhere to: quality over quantity.

    As a teacher, I gave nightly spelling homework (one page) and the one side of the page was a few math problems that were similar to what I taught in class. For me, the purpose of homework is to reinforce/practice...not to cause stress/confusion!
     
  23. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    The homework I give is to complete what they didn't finish in class. Typically, if they work hard in class, they should have little to no problems to have to complete at home. If they waste their time in class, they'll have quite a bit.

    Also, if the homework was to finish practice problems, I only mark for completion. We go over the questions in class together the following day so it allows them to see where they went wrong before they get to a marked assignment.
     
  24. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    I would prefer to assign HW but not actually have to grade it and just go off of test grades (similar to how most of my college courses worked). Leave it up to the students to do as much or aas little as they wanted. Some reasons I don't:

    -our school district only allows us to assign 1/3 of their grade off of test scores (thereby teaching them that tests aren't really important).
    -I don't completely trust all of the young people to monitor themselves appropriately (after all they are not yet adults). So the HW would be done in inverse proportion to the students' need to actually do them.
    -because our school system has minimized the importance of tests, my % of students would be noticeable. I have many students who do fairly well on HW or quizzes but make low scores on the tests because they simply don't sit down and prepare for a test. again, this is setting them up for failure at a worthwhile college or university (imo).
     
  25. agdamity

    agdamity Fanatic

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    I believe that homework should never involve fragile knowledge. I've found that when a student doesn't understand the concept well, the homework more often than not turns into an argument with mom/ dad instead of practice. Parents are not familiar with the CGI methods of problem solving that my kids understand. If a student really understands the concept, they do not need to repeatedly practice it. As a result, I do not send much math homework home.

    I have a 90 minute math block, and teach 5th grade. I'm sure I have more time for completing class work than many secondary teachers. I do understand the need to have students finish an assignment at home when you have limited time, but I also think teachers should make sure students understand how to do it before they leave class. I'm not sure how many parents can help with upper level math homework such as trig and calculus!
     
  26. SF_Giants66

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    With middle school, there usually won't be as much as a 90 minute block for math. Ideally, I would like to provide enough time for them to do practice problems in class with whatever grade I end up teaching, but I don't know if that is realistic.

    I definitely would have trouble keeping quizzes and tests down to 1/3rd of the grade or below if that were a district or school policy. The only kind of scores I can see factoring into grades for math besides quizzes, tests, and homework are generally projects, and with the exception of surveys and statistics, I generally don't see much reason to assign projects in math. The students have plenty of projects to complete in all their other classes.
     
  27. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    This is why it is important to not give math homework when students are still struggling to understand a concept. They will go home and make many mistakes and there will often be no one to correct them. In this way, your professor is correct.

    However, if HW is given in math on a concept they understand and did successfully in class, then the student can go home and practice this method the correct way, which will better help them to not forget how to do it.

    This is why a teacher must, at a minimum, do a quick spot check of each HW assignment, to see that a student isn't racing through it and putting down a lot of incorrect answers just to get it done.

    HW can bring a student forward or backward depending on what it is and how it is done.
     
  28. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    Even if kids understand the concept in class, it's easy to forget it. Homework helps reinforce concepts. In addition, in high school math, it's hard to cover every type of problem so I like to assign different types of problems for homework.
     
  29. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    This.

    In college, students spend around 15 hrs a week in class. If they spend 20 hrs a week working on homework, that puts them where they are in high school, just sitting in classes all day.

    For my engineering level math classes or upper level chemistry courses, I had class 3 hrs a week, review sessions 1-3 hrs as I wanted or needed, and spent maybe 5 hrs a week studying, with more or less depending on the material and exams. I'll be generous and say that my absolute toughest classes took up 15 hrs a week (like physical chemistry and structural geology lab), other classes not nearly so much.

    High school wastes a lot of time that college does not. We need to be teaching and helping kids how to take ownership of their learning. That's what they will need in college. The average premed or engineering student doesnt spend more time than a good high school student with a load of AP classes--they spend less or about the same. Plus, none of it is busy work. I attended a top rated engineering school. Students work hard, but not too many are constantly working on school from 7am until the evening, every single day.

    I frequently give "homework" along with answer keys. I tell kids to try some, check their work, and make decisions from there. If they know it, go do something else. If they need help, come see me. I don't grade it--the purpose is for them to gauge their own strengths and weaknesses. I did that this week with mapping skills. Some students struggled and we didn't get enough in class practice time.
     
  30. Jerseygirlteach

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    All I can say is that in the In the 6+ years I've been teaching, not one parent has ever complained to me about too much homework. Many, many parents have asked for more. Out of the 8 parents who showed up on back to school night last week, 2 of them approached me about this very thing.

    For homework most nights, I give a spelling assignment from a spelling menu, a math worksheet based on the day's lesson, and independent reading.

    For my school, an average gen ed 3rd or 4th grade homework assignment looks like this:

    Spelling activity
    Math worksheets (1 or 2)
    Read 30 minutes and complete a journal entry based on a prompt
    Grammar worksheet - couple of times a week
    Fluency packet - due weekly
    At-home project or report - usually due monthly

    On vacations such as holiday and spring break - they are required to do a packet of activities including essays and math.

    This to me is a lot. I don't dream of doing all this. But on the other hand...We do fantastic considering that we are a high poverty district and, if the gen ed teachers are telling me the truth, they never hear complaints from parents either. Homework can keep a kid busy and away from trouble or, at least, a lot of tv time. Plus, I have a hard time believing that the extra practice is really going to impede them.
     
  31. Pi-R-Squared

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    I thought I would be giving tons of homework but I actually like having all my students start on their HW problems in class and I walk around the room looking for and correcting mistakes. Those that complete early get to help check ONLY AFTER they check my answer key. So far it's been working out, I think. I've also noticed that, no matter what I teach and how I teach it, the low students score low on tests and high students score high.
     
  32. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    ??? Really? Most middle schools I know of in my district and surrounding districts now use the block scheduling method where class periods are approximately 90 minutes long and alternate days.
     
  33. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I agree.

    This is why making sure students either have access to good notes (by either understanding how to take them or have them provided) or know how to use good resources will benefit them.

    A student with resources that he doesn't know how to use properly can't always do the homework even if he has the resource. Textbooks are a typical example of a resource that students really don't know how to use. Most often they are used as a source of problems and not a source for learning. Learning HOW to properly read and understand a textbook is a difficult process, particularly in math and math based sciences. They require a lot of thinking and connecting ideas because it is not always spelled out for students. It isn't like reading a grade level novel that can be followed and understood at the surface level even if the reader misses some of the deeper meaning.
     
  34. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    I am required to give homework in math. I never give it on new concepts...always from 1 or 2 weeks before, and I have a pretty liberal "late" policy: Turn everything in for the week by the following Monday. It's never more than 3 or 4 assignments.
     
  35. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    This is so true and so important.
     
  36. Pi-R-Squared

    Pi-R-Squared Groupie

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    YES! YES!! YES!!! I've felt that math books are hard for non-math people because all the information is thrown out there on the page so the kids don't see the steps involved.
     
  37. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    My question to everyone is how can we do this better? What strategies can we use to make reading and using textbooks more effective?
     
  38. FourSquare

    FourSquare Fanatic

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    Teach kids to read!

    (Not even being facetious. Half the battle of the kids in my school is that they can't even decode the textbook, let alone comprehend it.)
     
  39. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    So what can your school do to improve this specifically?

    Or does your school not teach reading to students? If they are teaching reading, as you said, it is not working, so what more can we do?
     
  40. gr3teacher

    gr3teacher Phenom

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    I think part of the problem is that textbooks are often written at a higher level than is actually appropriate for students. My district has textbooks, but encourages us to only use them as a resource, since they are about two grade levels beyond where we'd expect for the grade level.
     
  41. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    So how do you teach students to USE that resource?

    Or as A2Z said, is it just a resource from which to get problems from?
     
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