# Rethinking Homework Pt 2

For those interested in the follow-up on my homework change after reading my first post: https://mathmindsblog.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/rethinking-homework/ , this is my reflection on the the process…

1 – Choosing the problems – I felt a bit overwhelmed with choosing the problems to put on the homework page. Who would have thought? It is just two problems, right? Unlike the “typical” homework that goes along with what we did in class that particular day, I wanted to use it more to see if students truly learned the concepts we worked with over the course of the first half of the year. With that, I chose to use a volume problem from Illustrative Math: http://www.illustrativemathematics.org/illustrations/1308  , which was our first unit of the year, on one side and on the opposite side I put the addition problem: 3  3/4 + 5  1/8, and asked students to show two different ways to solve the problem. I thought one problem in context along with one problem without context was a nice mix.

2 – Students showed great responsibility – I purposely gave the paper to the students on Thursday and assigned it to be due the following Monday so students had two nights to actually get the paper home (sometimes that is the hardest part:) and then two more nights to find an adult. I was very excited to get 98% of the papers back from the students and they seemed really excited to tell me about what their parents had said about their work. I heard everything from “They said they wouldn’t solve it that way” to “They were so proud of my vocabulary.” Loved it!

3 –Parent response – I had great parent response both on the sheet and in conversations after the fact. Here are just a few examples of comments made….

I loved that I got praise, concerns as well as strategies! It was pretty awesome and hopefully led to some great conversations at home!

4 – My response – I wanted to take time to look through the work and plan my next steps but I also wanted to acknowledge the parents comments and/or concerns right away. That day, I sent a quick email to the parents to first thank them for taking the time to work with their child on math and to also let them know that I saw their questions/concerns and that although they may not get a direct response from me on each individual comment, I will be working with their child based on their work.

5 – My plan from here – I have math workshop planned for tomorrow in order to give me time to work with the students who may have misconceptions or maybe just not using an efficient strategy in their work with volume and/or fractions. I found the fraction work pretty amazing and, I cannot lie, it really made me feel great about the work we had just done in our fraction unit. They really used some creative thinking in looking for a second strategy!

Overall, I completely loved the homework and the result! I am in the process of creating my next one to give the students tomorrow. I don’t think I will make any changes at this point in the layout of the sheet at this point. I do think that when I give a problem with no context next time, I will ask the students to write a story to go along with it.  I did find that more struggled with the volume question, possibly because of the context, so I really want to work on the students moving in and out of context in mathematics.

– Kristin

Student samples in case you are interested:

# Rethinking Homework…

One of the things on my vacation “To-Do” list is to rethink the way I do homework in my classroom. The concept of homework is something I constantly go back and forth with in my head, trying to find the perfect balance of meaningfulness for my students.

Some things I have learned, loathed, and/or questioned about homework…

• More problems does not equate to more meaningful. If a student can do 2 problems correctly, chances are they can do 20. Conversely, if they can’t do 2, 20 will be extremely painful.
• Some parents will want more homework, some will want less. This is not necessarily based on any particular demographic, it is varying. I find this more stems from parents reflecting on their own school experience and homework load. What they believe makes students “better math students.”
• Some students will have help (resources) at home and others will not. Then I end up grading/giving feedback on parent’s work or work that has been corrected by the parents vs the students that did it completely alone. Not equitable in my eyes.
• Some will never remember to bring their homework home and if they do, will lose it on the way back to school. So, then I feel like I am grading a student on responsibility and not their math understanding.
• Homework should be meaningful, however what is meaningful varies from student to student. How can I make it meaningful for the 45 individuals in my math classes?
• Homework can be beneficial to involve parents in what is being learned in class. I do newsletters and parent math nights, but really homework seems more accessible. I want students talking math their parents and questions that may arise from parents. Homework can open those doors, but I don’t want it opened in a negative “my child couldn’t do this and I had to show them how I solve it” kind of way.
• Am I doing the students a disservice if they hit 6th grade and beyond and the homework load increases dramatically on them? Am I responsible for “preparing” them for what will happen in future grades? (whether it be best practice or not).
• I feel there is benefits to students being held accountable for completing assignments outside of school. From time management to the organization and responsibility of completing a task are life skills that I feel are extremely important. But, how do grade/give feedback to those skills? If it doesn’t somehow “count,” some students will not really have the motivation to do it.
• I feel like the time spent grading/giving feedback on homework could be better utilized in planning upcoming lessons.

This list could go on and on, but for the sake of time and actually being able to check something (actually two things bc blogging was also on there) off my to-do list, here is what I have come up with thus far…

I will assign one or two problems for students to solve and explain their reasoning. I will attach those problems to applicable standard(s) (including the Math Practices) so parents who would like, can see why certain things are being done in class. I will have it due over a few day period so students can manage their time and organization. Hence leading to the first part of the page:

Now the second part is hard because I am trying to break a mindset. I want the students to explain their reasoning to the problem and parents (or any adult) to check off whether the student could explain it clearly or not. NOT FIX IT! Then I left a box for any questions or concerns for me… second part:

I am hoping this offers as more of a formative assessment for me that connects parents to the learning in our classroom. For the students who do not always have parents available, any adult will do…this way the students could use one of their other teachers in school that they see each day.

I am also hoping that by having students explain their reasoning to someone other than me (because most times I “get where they are coming from mathematically”) it will force them to be accurate and clear in their explanations, putting a big emphasis on the Math Practices.

I am hoping this opens more communication between the parents who I may not have reached the first half of the year.

I am hoping this gives me more time to focus on planning and instruction time than grading or  going over homework assignments.

As always, a work in progress. Any thoughts are appreciated!

Now, time to check two things off my list…for now..

-Kristin