How I’ve Been Doing HW This Year

My biggest complaint from students is that I give too much homework/never give class time for homework. My second biggest complaint from students is that I don’t grade enough homework. Guys, come on, make up your mind!

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So here’s what I’ve been doing (things have been adjusted over time but I’ve been doing it this way since the semester started):

Assigning:

  • Assign up to 10 HW problems per class (which means every other school day since I’m on A-B block scheduling)
  • Have told students that they should never spend more than 30 minutes on homework
  • Use a HW packet for the unit (new this semester)
  • At least 3 problems are from the section they were working on that day and at least 3 problems are from previous sections/units (my attempt at spiraling homework – new this semester)
  • Answers are always provided in the packet

Checking:

  • Roll a dice (or a student rolls it if they want to) at the beginning of class and do whatever the result says to do:
    • Even: No Grade
    • 6: Reward (I’ll pass around my bag of treats)
    • Odd: Grade (completion)
    • 1: Collect (grade for accuracy)
  • ALSO, 1-3 HW problems are written on the board before class starts and before the warm up is done for the day, students sign up to present those problems to the class
    • Students must present 4 HW problems in the semester
    • Presentation points are only given if the presenter talks through how they solved the problem
    • Presentation points can be given if the student answered the question incorrectly, but is able to work out how to get the correct answer from class participation
  • I always accept homework late for a 10% deduction
  • Even if I’m not putting a grade on the homework that day, I still put it into the gradebook as an assignment that doesn’t count toward their grade so I can track who’s doing/not doing it consistently. I just started this this semester along with the caveat of having 75% of homework complete before being able to do a reassessment.

My reasoning:

  • Homework helps retention so it should be assigned and (hopefully) completed
  • Students spend enough time during school working in class, so the time they spend on math outside of class should be meaningful (short and spiraled)
  • Homework is practice and there’s no way for me to know who’s really doing it, so shouldn’t be part of the grade, but I have to have it be a grade so I make it minimal
  • Students benefit from speaking in front of their peers and also their peers benefit from seeing math be explained by other students

I like this and I dislike this.

Ok after this point this post turns really long (as if it wasn’t already) and kinda emotional so really what it comes down to is how do you do homework in your class? Comment or tweet if you want to share.

If I was really doing what I wanted, I’d have no grade for homework but I already get enough push back from barely having homework as part of the grade. Last semester it turned out to be about 10% in each class. I would DEFINITELY keep the presentation part (which I totally stole from my old Physics teacher) because it’s honestly awesome. It’s something I can tell parents about and kids can be proud of and I also let my really shy students just come in and do it for me only but then they’re guaranteed to get questions about it from me. That’s the tradeoff. But honestly the presentation part is great.

I was a student that always did my homework because, to me, it was my job as a student to get it done. Math homework was always the easiest for me to do because it was usually just a bunch of exercises on one or two topics I just saw in class that day. In my classes now, the feeling I get from my students is that homework should be done in class and should be part of their grade so that they can get good grades just by attempting/writing anything for their homework. I actually got this as a response from a student in my first unit reflection at the beginning of the year:

Im actually getting all good grades in all of my classes, and I take this stuff seriously. Having one F or D and the rest are all A’s doesnt look that great. And like coming in this year i was super confident about math because i got AN A in math class last yearrr and I literally had no idea what was going on in that class and what the teacher was talking about but I still did well somehow. I always did my hw, which is why it so valid to always grade hw, for kids like me. And I always got good grades on my tests. I dont remember the last time I got a D or an F. Or really, to be honest, even a C ! So hm. I know I could be doing so much better… but really, I just dont understand the concept of most maths and thats just all there is to it. Some teachers are better at understanding that than others, I guess

And that was rough for me to see at the beginning of the year. And it wasn’t just this student saying it, she was just the one that wrote it out. I had a parent who is an elementary school teacher tell me that she would never “do this” to her students. However, what the kids didn’t realize at the beginning of the year is the power of reassessments.

I did start the year off with some not-so-awesome grades. Part of that had to do with my school’s grading scale:

That grading scale has since been removed by my principal. So my grades went up but still weren’t awesome. Apparently my class was hard. The (lack of a lot of) homework part of my grade took most of the blame. I blamed it on me not preparing my students well for assessments. Looking back, it think the blame should go to both me and my students not really being ready for each other.

So last semester for all of my classes, things ended ok. Students were starting to see that reassessments were good for them and also helped them with final exams in the end. This semester, students are doing their homework more. I’ve heard/seen comments about the fact that they realize the homework helps them be prepared for assessments, the packets help because they can do the homework at school during study hall and then ask me questions before they go home or get to class, and that me choosing which ones are being presented has helped them get their presentations done earlier (I used to have it just be presentations if anyone had a question on a problem). I have noticed more homework completion and I thought it may be because the students still see every assignment in the gradebook, so I’m getting more late work turned in. Homework presentations have been so much better, probably because of the higher completion.

But in the end, should it really be about how much homework gets completed? I should be more worried about how much students are learning. I think that on an A-B block schedule, homework is essential practice because my students have to regularly go 2-3 days without seeing the material and sometimes (like this week or if they’re absent) go up to 6 days before being back in class. I struggled with retention last semester and I’m struggling with it less this semester. But it’s still a struggle.

This post went in a lot of different directions and is probably hardly coherent but I’m not gonna proofread it at this point so I’m just gonna post it. Can you tell me how you do homework? I’m very intrigued by Jonathan’s post on Infinite Sums about his homework structure in his calculus class. I plan on adjusting my homework policy as I move more and more towards SBG, as well.

Pourquoi les devoirs? Je veux savoir la solution à ce problème mais je n’ai pas de grille de réponses.

Reddit Teacher Gifts

Guys this has been in my drafts folder since the beginning of the year and I don’t know why it wasn’t just published…

I want to just write a short and long overdue post to acknowledge that there are some wonderful people out there. I signed up for Reddit Teacher Gifts last year and wasn’t matched, but tried again this year and was so excited that I was given a match.  A month or two later, I received a box in the mail addressed to me and had honestly no idea what it could be. I had forgotten about the whole thing in the hustle and bustle of the beginning of the school year. When I opened it, I was just so happy. It wasn’t just that I got awesome stuff, but what really got me was that someone that has know idea who I am would get this stuff for me just to help my class. I can’t wait to use it all. The rulers and markers have already come in handy.

Le monde est plein de merveilleux gens.

MMC Presentation – Thinking Mathematically in Daily Warm Ups

This is just a short post to share what is being presented at the MMC Conference of Workshops on 2/6 at Lincoln-Way Central High School.

Here is my presentation: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ug14OKQOiFz_-hXuf4PRXA2m20ZfGfLR4M-NcfwKMUA/edit?usp=sharing

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Here is the handout:

.docx: Thinking Mathematically in Daily Warm Ups Handout

.pdf: Thinking Mathematically in Daily Warm Ups Handout

Thank you to everyone who participated! Please please please contact me if there’s anything I can answer for you. Also, I’d love to hear about if you try anything you saw!

Le partage est tellement gratifiant!