Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Dog Ate My Homework (3)

After reading Mathematical Mindsets (Boaler), I was intrigued by what she stated about the research on homework and why homework (or at least the kind that teachers give today) is NOT beneficial for the student.  How crazy is that thought?  I've always thought students need to practice what they have learned otherwise they won't remember it or understand it, but apparently, I'm wrong!

I decided to invest some extra research into how learning math is related to homework.  I'm pretty much a "type A" person so I decided to make a list of the negatives of homework that is being assigned and then the positives (if there even are any!)  The points I will reference refer to mostly the type of homework that I mentioned, problems presented after a lesson to practice those new skills.

1.  Differentiation: There is no varied level of ability to the homework.  All students receive the same homework no matter what level of understanding they have that day.  This can be detrimental to all levels of students encouraging some students to be bored and others to be defeated.

2.  Amount:  Students are being assigned "too much" homework or "too many" problems.  Once a student understands a concept, the repeated practice of it does not help the students understand the concept any better than they already do.  So students who struggle are not going to learn anything more than they did during the lesson that day.  Students who understand it do not need to keep doing it for 10 or 15 or 20 problems because they already have an understanding of what is being asked.

This quote from the journal below describes perfectly what goes wrong when students are assigned too many rote practice problems.

"The first gets frustrated and quits, the second gets bored and quits, and the third might get frustrated and bored by all the time it takes to get done or hastily complete the work with errors.  Some may copy each other's work along the way, too."

These are not the emotions we want our students to go through when they are trying to practice or continue learning at home.

3.  Parental Involvement:  Parents are either too involved or not involved enough for their child to successfully complete it.  There really is no winning.  Parents, while I totally love them and value their importance, are not trained in education or teaching of a child (in most instances).  Most parents are used to the way they grew up and the way they were educated and we are not trying to recreate the 70s, 80, or even 90s...  we are trying to revolutionize education and learning.  So what sense would it make to spend the whole day putting a child in one mind set, to send them home and ask their parents for help who have a completely different understanding and mindset about learning.  This does more harm than good.  Other parents may just want their child to succeed and think that good grades will mean that... while robbing their child of understanding, they rush their child into answering.

4. Home-School Relationship: Students are encouraged by parents, teachers, and friends to be involved in many "extra-curricular" activities.  Not only are these activities great for learning and their self esteem and to teach the child many aspects of appropriate social interactions.  When we assign homework to be 30 minutes for this subject and this many problems for this subject (which could vary from child to child in being 10 minutes or 2 hours!), we rob children of these opportunities outside of academia.


One of the most interesting things that I've taken away from this class is our "homework".  I've made the connection already between Jo Boaler's book, this website, and the class about the reflection piece of learning, like how in class we make a quick reflection on every discussion topic to kind of wrap up any thoughts or take-aways.  The blog acts in a similar fashion to be a reflection of something we explored in class or in our "homework" time and to take a step further.  While I have honestly found the blogging a little painful (which I really normally love) I think I was definitely trying to actively stretch my thinking about math.  I'm also a little hard on myself by not thinking my work is good enough... can't pin point if that is from my fixed mindset admitting defeat or my growth mindset always wanting to do more.

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