## Ages & Stages

Developing good homework habits.

Some children get right down to work without much encouragement. Others need help making the transition from playing to a homework frame of mind. Sometimes providing a ten-minute warning is all it takes to help a child get ready mentally as well as to move to the place she intends to work.

There is no universally right time to do homework. In some families, children do best if they tackle their homework shortly after returning home from school in the mid afternoon; other youngsters may do best if they devote the after-school hours to unwinding and playing, leaving their homework until the evening, when they may feel a renewed sense of vigor. Let your child have some say in the decision making. Homework can often become a source of conflict between parent and child—"Johnny, why can't you just do your homework without arguing about it?"—but if you agree on a regular time and place, you can eliminate two of the most frequent causes of homework-related dissension.

Some parents have found that their children respond poorly to a dictated study time (such as four o'clock every afternoon). Instead, youngsters are given guidelines ("No video games until your homework is done"). Find out what works best for both your child and the family as a whole. Once this is determined, stick with it.

Some youngsters prefer that a parent sit with them as they do their homework. You may find this an acceptable request, particularly if you have your own reading or paperwork to complete. However, do not actually do the homework for your child. She may need some assistance getting focused and started and organizing her approach to the assignment. Occasionally, you may need to explain a math problem; in those cases, let your child try a couple of problems first before offering to help. But if she routinely requires your active participation to get her everyday homework done, then talk to her teacher. Your child may need stronger direction in the classroom so that she is able to complete the assignments on her own or with less parental involvement. One area where children may need parental help is in organizing how much work will have to be done daily to finish a long assignment, such as a term paper or a science project.

If your child or her teacher asks you to review her homework, you may want to look it over before she takes it to school the next morning. Usually it is best if homework remains the exclusive domain of the child and the teacher. However, your input may vary depending on the teacher's philosophy and the purpose of homework. If the teacher is using homework to check your child's understanding of the material—thus giving the teacher an idea of what needs to be emphasized in subsequent classroom teaching sessions—your suggestions for changes and improvements on your child's paper could prove misleading. On the other hand, if the teacher assigns homework to give your child practice in a particular subject area and to reinforce what has already been taught in class, then your participation can be valuable. Some teachers use homework to help children develop self-discipline and organizational and study skills. Be sure to praise your youngster for her efforts and success in doing her homework well.

In general, support your child in her homework, but do not act as a taskmaster. Provide her with a quiet place, supplies, encouragement, and occasional help—but it is her job to do the work. Homework is your youngster's responsibility, not yours.

As the weeks pass, keep in touch with your child's teacher regarding homework assignments. If your youngster is having ongoing problems—difficulty understanding what the assignments are and how to complete them—or if she breezes through them as though they were no challenge at all, let the teacher know. The teacher may adjust the assignments so they are more in sync with your youngster's capabilities.

Whether or not your child has homework on a particular night, consider reading aloud with her after school or at night. This type of shared experience can help interest your child in reading, as well as give you some personal time with her. Also, on days when your child does not have any assigned homework, this shared reading time will reinforce the habit of a work time each evening.

To further nurture your child's love of reading, set a good example by spending time reading on your own, and by taking your youngster to the library and/or bookstore to select books she would like to read. Some families turn off the TV each night for at least thirty minutes, and everyone spends the time reading. As children get older, one to two hours may be a more desirable length of time each day to set aside for reading and other constructive activities.

As important as it is for your child to develop good study habits, play is also important for healthy social, emotional, and physical growth and development. While encouraging your child to complete her assignments or do some additional reading, keep in mind that she has already had a lengthy and per haps tiring day of learning at school and needs some free time. Help her find the play activities that best fit her temperament and personality—whether it is organized school sports or music lessons, free-play situations (riding her bike, playing with friends), or a combination of these.

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## Assigning More Meaningful Math Homework

A small set of problems or even one substantial problem can be enough to supplement classroom instruction.

As a math teacher of more than 23 years, I have had the habit, almost like a muscle memory repetition, of assigning daily math homework for my middle school students. It wasn’t until recently that I paused to reflect, “Why am I assigning this?” The easy answer is, “My students need to practice to develop their skills.”

If I dig a bit deeper into the “why,” I wonder, “Are all of my students benefiting from this assignment? Did I assign an appropriate amount and level of problems? What resources do my students have or not have to be successful with this assignment? Is the assignment meaningful or busywork?”

Consider the following suggestions for making math homework more meaningful.

## 3 Ways to Create More Meaningful Math Homework

1. Think quality over quantity. The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics Homework page of tips for teachers suggests, “Only assign what’s necessary to augment instruction. If you can get sufficient information by assigning only five problems, then don’t assign fifty.”

Worksheets and problem sets from textbook publishers might contain dozens of problems that repeat the same concepts. It is OK to assign part of a page, such as “p. 34 #s 3, 5, and 17.” I tell my middle school students, “I handpicked these particular problems because they capture the objective of today’s lesson.” When students know that their teacher carefully “handpicked” a problem set, they might pay more attention to the condensed assignment because it was tailored for them.

Even one problem can be sufficient. Robert Kaplinsky, cofounder of Open Middle , routinely shares on X (formerly Twitter) single problems that are really engaging and give students a good chance to practice skills.

The depth and exploration that can come from one single problem can be richer than 20 routine problems. You might be surprised by how much depth can be inspired by a single problem.

2. Consider choice and variety. It’s unrealistic to create a personalized daily homework assignment for each student in your class. Student voice and choice can be applied to your preexisting assignments without your having to re-create the homework wheel.

Traditional assignments can be modified by offering students choice. This might look like “ Choose any five of these problems ,” or take this tip from educator Peter Liljedahl and designate problems as “mild, medium, or spicy” and let students pick their level for that assignment.

Offering homework level choice also promotes a culture of growth mindset through messaging like “You might choose mild problems for this lesson; however, tomorrow you might feel you’re ready for a medium level.” Level choice can vary day to day—your math level is not fixed.

Daily homework can also be spiced up by offering a variety of types of assignments. Consider assigning problems that go beyond providing a single number answer. Here are a few examples to get students thinking beyond just getting a particular problem right:

- When simplifying (4 + 5) x 5 - 3, what is the first step?
- When simplifying (4 + 5) x 5 - 3, Ali got the answer 18. What advice do you have for her?
- Write your own order of operations problem with a solution of 42.

Check out these websites for even more creative ways to vary homework:

- Three-Acts Math Tasks
- Open Middle
- Would You Rather Math

3. Remember, accountability doesn’t have to result in a grade. There is a major difference between assigning homework for a grade and assigning homework purely for practice. When a grade is the result of an assignment, the stakes get higher for the student.

In the February 2023 Washington Post article “ A deep dive into whether—and how—homework should be graded ,“ former teacher Rick Wormeli wrote, “When early attempts at mastery are not used against them, and accountability comes in the form of actually learning content, adolescents flourish.” If homework is truly for practice, this is an opportunity for students to make mistakes and take risks without the fear of a penalty.

Even if homework is graded as a completion grade, there are considerations of equity and meaningfulness of the practice.

Consider the following questions when deciding to give a completion grade for a homework assignment: Do all students have a home environment that is supportive of homework? Do some students have additional support, such as tutors or parents, to help them get the homework completed? Would students copy homework assignments from each other just to earn the completion grade?

If not grades, then how do we hold students accountable for practicing outside of class?

Student presentations and discussions are a way to check for understanding of an assignment and to let students know you expect them to attempt the problems. This might look like a debate in which students take sides on how to approach a problem . Alternatively, students could post their work on the board to share their strategies with the class or discuss their solutions in small groups. Communicating their mathematical thinking deepens their understanding .

Education consultants Ashley Marlow and Katie Novak write in their Edutopia article “ Making Math Accessible for All Students ” (July 2022), “When students have opportunities to think, reason, explain, and model their thinking, they are more readily able to develop a deep understanding of mathematics beyond rote memorization. The goal is for all students to experience success in higher learning of mathematics—requiring those reasoning and sense-making skills and increasing engagement.”

The next time you’re planning your lessons and assignments, pause and reflect on the meaningfulness of the homework assignment. Could it be shorter but more in-depth? Can students have a choice in their work? Will students find value in doing the work even if it is not for a grade? You might find that students take more ownership and care in their homework if it’s more meaningful to them.

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Teaching time savers: reviewing homework, by jane murphy wilburne.

The classroom practice of assigning homework is a necessity to reinforce the topic of the day's lesson, review skills and practice them in a variety of problems, or challenge students' thinking and application of the skills. Effective mathematics teachers know how to choose worthwhile assignments that can significantly impact students' learning and understanding of the mathematics. The challenge, however, is how to manage and review the assignments in a manner that will benefit students' learning, and use classroom time effectively.

Over the years, I have tried various approaches to reviewing and assessing students' homework. Collecting and grading every students' homework can be very time consuming, especially when you have large classes and no graduate assistants to help review students' work. On the other hand, while it is important to provide students with immediate feedback on their homework, it does not benefit them much to have the professor work out each problem in front of the class.

I believe it is important for college students to take responsibility for their learning. By promoting opportunities for them to communicate with and learn from each other, we can help students come to rely less on the professor to provide them with all the answers, and teach them to pose questions that enhance each others' understanding.

One technique that has been effective in my classes is to assign homework problems that vary in concept application and level of difficulty. The students were instructed to solve each problem and place a check (’) next to any problem they could not solve. As the students entered class the next day, they would list the page number and problem number of the problems they could not solve, on the front board in a designated area. If the problem was already listed, they placed a check (’) next to it. Once the class started, they were not allowed to record problem numbers at the board. Other students, who were successful in solving these problems, immediately went to the board when they entered the class, indicated that they would solve one of the listed problems, and worked it out in detail. When they finished they signed their name to the problem.

By the time I entered the classroom, students were busy solving problems at the board while others were checking their homework at their seats. If there were any questions about the problems, the student who solved the problem at the board would explain his work to the class. If there was a problem in which no one was able to solve, I would provide a few details about the problem and reassign it for the next class. In a short period of time, all homework was reviewed, and I recorded notes as to which students posted solutions on the board. Rather than collecting every student's homework, I noted the problems that gave most students difficulty and would assign similar problems in a future assignment. Students who listed the problems they had difficulty with were not penalized. Instead, those who solved the problems would receive a plus (+) in my grade book. A series of five pluses (+) would earn them a bonus point on a future exam.

My classroom quizzes would always include several homework problems to help keep students accountable for completing their assignments and motivate them to review problems they had difficulty with. Those who did typically received an A!

Time spent in class: approximately 5-12 minutes reviewing the homework. Time saved: about 30 minutes per class

Jane M. Wilburne is assistant professor of mathematics at Penn State Harrisburg.

Teaching Time Savers Archives

Teaching Time Savers are articles designed to share easy-to-implement activities for streamlining the day-to-day tasks of faculty members everywhere. If you would like to share your favorite time savers with the readers of FOCUS, then send a separate email description of each activity to Michael Orrison at [email protected] . Make sure to include a comment on "time spent" and "time saved" for each activity, and to include pictures and/or figures if at all possible.

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## Mary takes 4 hours to do her math homework and Joe takes 6 hours to do his math homework. How much time would it take if they did their homework together?

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Alice used to do her math homework regularly and studied hard for tests although she continued to have difficulty getting passing grades. Disheartened, Alice began to put less effort into her math homework, and eventually she failed math.

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Answer to Solved Maria used to do her math homework regularly and | Chegg.com

Some teachers use homework to help children develop self-discipline and organizational and study skills. Be sure to praise your youngster for her efforts and success in doing her homework well. In general, support your child in her homework, but do not act as a taskmaster. Provide her with a quiet place, supplies, encouragement, and ...

3 Ways to Create More Meaningful Math Homework. 1. Think quality over quantity. The National Council for Teachers of Mathematics Homework page of tips for teachers suggests, "Only assign what's necessary to augment instruction. If you can get sufficient information by assigning only five problems, then don't assign fifty.". Worksheets ...

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Maria used to do her math homework regularly and studied diligently for exams, although she continued to have difficulty getting passing grades. Disheartened, Maria began to put less effort into her homework, and eventually she failed her math class. This is an example of what type of behavior? a. stimulus generalization b. punishment c ...

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Alice used to do her math homework regularly and studied hard for tests although she continued to have difficulty getting passing grades; disheartened, Alice began to put less effort into her math homework, and eventually she failed math. This is an example of what type of behavior?A. reinforcementB. classicalC. social-cognitiveD. punishment.

Maria used to do her math homework regularly and studied diligently for exams, although she continued to have difficulty getting passing grades. Disheartened, Maria began to put less effort into her homework, and eventually she failed her math class. This is an example of what type of behavior?

My classroom quizzes would always include several homework problems to help keep students accountable for completing their assignments and motivate them to review problems they had difficulty with. Those who did typically received an A! Time spent in class: approximately 5-12 minutes reviewing the homework. Time saved: about 30 minutes per class.

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