Sunday, June 1, 2014

Homework - How much does it matter?

So it is final exam time at my school, we are coming into summer, so it is summative assessment time!  So I will start grading finals shortly (or my student teacher will) and it will indicate how Juda is doing with respect to math education - according to the world (I measure myself and my students by a whole different set of metrics - basically performance following HS.)

When I started teaching eight years ago, I taught how I was taught.  We reviewed homework, graded homework, introduced a concept and started homework.  I was the boss, it was their job.  And what they could recall for final was typically not good.  But that was teaching, then - now.... 

Now I never take homework problems in class, no grading, no chasing - homework has minimal value.  And if I gave 2014 finals to my students of yesteryear only a few would pass.

I get over 7000 minutes per year to teach math to a student (42 minutes/class * 170 classes).  How much time is needed to teach Algebra or Geometry?  Some practice must occur outside of class but how much?  Is 10% enough - that would be only 5 minutes per class period of homework, maybe 30% - that is only 15 minutes.  So when I hear of an hour of homework I think about how brilliant of students they must be.

But it is the summer that shows what the student has really learned, what they really know.  The first assessment on "old skills" in September with little to no review shows what they truly know and understand.

And what do they know after a summer off?

My old students doing lots of homework needed lots of review -- basically an entire quarter.  The students where I started bell-to-bell teaching, extremely limited homework and time outside of class is doing projects (essays, powerpoints, etc) - get just a couple of weeks.   And they perform well.

So I am sitting at the end of year and the start of summer of curriculum planning where I must reflect on the question "How much does homework help students?"