Homework and practice

The 6-8 math teachers received Illustrative Mathematics training this summer and one key question we posted on our “parking lot” is the purpose of homework and daily practice. We will be meeting as a department next week to discuss homework and its role, if at all, in daily instruction. Should we spend class time reviewing each problem? Select problems? Don’t go over it at all? Should we collect and review student homework as a formative assessment tool? Do we scan for a completion grade based on following the criteria for success? Use it as an opportunity to teach responsibility? Do students learn from the worked solutions we provide? Should the practice be blocked or interleaved? There are a myriad of questions we face when evaluating the purpose and effectiveness of homework.

None of the teachers I collaborate with assign “too much” homework. But there’s potential for any homework assignment to slide down the slippery slope from independent practice which can be successfully be completed by the student, to dependent practice involving the parent, tutor, etc. to downright no practice where the student simply copies the worked solutions.

In grades 6-8, students follow a homework criteria for success process of GCS–Grade, Correct, Submit. Grade by marking C, PC or NY; correct each PC or NY using the worked solution, then submit. While a worked solution is a helpful learning tool, I have two issues with using worked solutions: 1) it locks the student into showing work using only one method, and 2) some students simply copy the key and do not use it as a learning tool.

When we have our homework discussion, I would like to hear my colleagues’ opinions on assigning fewer problems from the IM practice, providing worked solutions to similar problems and continuing to have students self correct their work outside of class.

For example if we ask students to complete problem #5 from this grade 6 IM lesson, one worked solution would be provided and the students are then asked to show two other ways.

worked solution

Here, the advantage is students can reference the worked solution in order to solve it other ways.

This is merely a suggestion to jump start the conversation. And to be sure, this should not be considered a homework policy that every teacher must adhere to. How a teacher uses homework in their instructional decisions is up to them.




2 thoughts on “Homework and practice

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this analysis and thinking out for us.
    We do something similar in HS, and did not consider the “locking in” part of the worked solution.

    As this was a convo in progress. Anymore progress?
    My thinking for this year is make Lagged practice (homework) worth less and class work more.

  2. Our department meeting is Thursday so our conversation will continue then. I never considered marking lagged and current practice separately and need to think about that. Thanks, Amy, for talking the time to comment.

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