Teaching Math: Homework Review
Over at dy/Dan there has been an interesting discussion of why Dan doesn’t assign homework. At some other point I may blog about my differentiated assignments. But not today. I’d like to briefly touch on another aspect of homework: how it is reviewed.
If homework is assigned, then it should have value. And if it has value it should be reviewed and acknowledged.
Students put up homework problems when they enter my classroom. There are four circumstances:
- to show off great work.
- to get feedback on hard work that they attempted, but are unsure about as to form or one or more details
- to learn how to do a problem that they were unable to complete (or even attempt)
- to complete an unanswered question that another student has put up
So at the beginning of class several students go to the side board. Who? Whoever wants to. They get credit. They get credit if they are correct. They get credit if they are incorrect. And they get credit for putting up a problem that they were unable to complete (or even start). And we review those problems on the board; rarely more than they put up; rarely fewer.
(more discussion, beneath the fold —->)
Why should they get credit if they are not correct? The main idea is to get the problems that have caught the kids’ attention up on the board. If they are stuck, credit for putting up the question. If they mastered a harder problem, credit for putting up model work. And when they are unsure, question for generating a class discussion of what looks good and what is incorrect. The tie in with credit ensures their participation (I ask them to put up a problem every two weeks or so, though some go up more often. There is the occasional class when I have to set some sort of max.)
How is homework review handled in other places?
- In some places, homework is reviewed at the end of class. I see two problems with that. a) I count on kids having got the homework before moving on to the next topic. Why go on to the next topic, then go back and check homework? and b) The end of class? How often does the homework review just get skipped??
- I knew a teacher who assigned three kids each day to put up problems. But they knew who they were in advance, so kids did their homework on the day they were assigned (and some of them, on no other).
- Some teachers routinely review all the problems. But insofar as some are routine practice, that makes for some fairly tedious review. Some teachers don’t review unless there is a question, and collect and correct or correct and spotcheck. But unless there is 1 day turnaround, the immediacy is lost. Will a kid remember what math bothered him 3 nights ago? And 1 day turnaround is an awful lot of fast work, if homework is being collected every day.
None of these ideas please me. What I do, while not perfect, does have several virtues.
I think that I get better involvement in homework this way than I otherwise would. There are often good quick discussions about details of work. Students check each other’s work, and have chances to correct their own homework. The physical activity of moving around helps the kids, who sit too long in one place in school. And there are major issues of classroom ownership, that this technique fosters.