Insert here your remark about my homework blog post being one day late!
Homework in math is expected. Review and practice are seen as part of developing automaticity and fluency. My students are assigned homework after they have had the opportunity to practice a skill or concept. Homework is less challenging than the examples presented in class, and is expected to take students 10-20 minutes to complete.
Enter the homework review dilemma.
Reviewing the homework allows students to evaluate their work. Self-checking is a powerful and valuable tool. However, modeling the solution for each question can be time consuming, and in a 40 minute period every minute counts. This strategy has some additional unwanted consequences, such as boredom and disruption. Only a handful of students, at best, are engaged at any given moment. The relationship between student engagement and mistakes is direct. Without errors, a student has little incentive to stay on task and that will lead to trouble!
Reviewing homework does serve another purpose – law enforcement. Most of my students complete their homework in a timely fashion, making missed assignments the lesser concern. The greater lies with the quality of the work. Without review, will students give assignments the attention they deserve?
Enter the compromise.
Students review homework with a peer, identifying the solutions that are common and those that are not (marked with a *). For the latter, students examine and compare their work to find the reason for disagreement (generally a small calculation error) and then the assignment is submitted for my review. A quick perusal gives me a snapshot of my class – the good (concept mastery), the bad (struggling students), and the ugly (misconceptions) – and becomes a guide for future instruction. A nod to law enforcement, homework is graded on a simple 10 point scale. And since I do not want the grade to be a detriment to struggling students, the scale weighs heavy on completing the entire assignment, using the proper format, neatness and organization. At the end of the term, homework marks are averaged (think mode, not mean) and considered as a unit test.
For now, this compromise seems to work. But it is a work in progress. You see, reflection is a great opportunity to step back and put things in perspective, to look at things objectively and draw conclusions. It’s a chance to learn and explore. Usually, it breeds tranquility and calm. It brings me to a place of deeper understanding and insight, but not today. Today, reflection has left me unsure. And though it’s difficult to articulate why, I just know that my approach to homework review is officially under construction. It’s a good thing that I have some amazing people to learn from!