Delta Math Homework

I’ve gone back and forth about how I should do homework. I don’t really fully completely think that homework should be given. I’ve done a few years without giving regular homework and I don’t think my learners’ understanding was any lower than when I did give regular homework. But then also I teach mostly freshmen and the biggest complaint I hear from both previous learners and their new teachers is that they are not ready for the homework load. I’m not at a place right now to try to change those teachers’ minds about homework, so I had to shift my thinking. If I’m going to truly prepare my freshmen for the years ahead, I need to prepare them to work outside of class.

Enter: Delta Math. I’ve been using Delta Math (DM) this year with both of my classes, but more consistently with Algebra I because it has more topics for that than Geometry. So I have one DM assignment going per unit. They typically have a few weeks to complete each assignment, and I have a bunch of topics in them. Our first unit after our two-week October break didn’t have a DM assignment, so that’s why you see such a big date gap right now.

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I’ve learned from my tries at DM last year to keep the number of problems required low. You want to do more with your learners, but for me, 1-3 is usually enough to show they know the topic but doesn’t burn them out on it. If it’s something where there are multiple levels of difficulty, I’ll maybe have 1 easy, 2 medium, and 1 harder problem. I also allow them to have multiple attempts (2-3 depending on the type of problem) and do include a penalty (0.25-0.5 off) for incorrect answers. I went back and forth on the penalty thing, but after seeing them do their first assignment and how they just wanted to click submit after barely doing any thinking on a problem, the penalty decision was confirmed. It slows them down. Even though they get multiple attempts, they really think about it more when they know that they can’t get more wrong or else they’ll have to do it more.

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I also have a due date schedule because after they get out of the Freshman Academy, most teachers do not allow late work at all. However, they are coming from their junior highs where they were able to retake and resubmit everything until the end of the year. So this transitions them a bit easier. I do forgive lateness for certain circumstances, like chronic absences and 504/IEP directives.

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Not all of my learners have access to the internet at home, but that hasn’t been much of an issue. I always give at least a few days’ worth of class time to complete DM and also, I make a paper copy by screenshotting double the amount of required problems for each section. I have only had to actually print that for a few learners at the beginning of the year who didn’t know to use their time more wisely.

These are worth 10 points each in the grade book and I give them their percentage out of 10. So if they did 85% they would get an 8.5 in the grade book. I use the Problem Logs in the Student Data dropdown frequently to see if I should update someone’s score on an old assignment, but also remind learners frequently that they need to tell me when they have updated an assignment. I also post this as an assignment on Google Classroom, so sometimes their way of telling me is to just resubmit the assignment so I get a notification.

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Overall, I really like using DM for homework. At first, I did get some push back because it wasn’t what they were used to and they got a lot wrong at first because they didn’t know how to structure their answers. For example, they didn’t know on the solving equations ones that you just needed the number and not x= with it. So I learned then to demo how to answer each question where it wasn’t obvious. It’s made my learners much better at attending to precision, too. And, sure, there are some that still get 0’s on their DM just like you’d get some that got 0’s on a paper assignment. And some guardians do not get why they’re not seeing a textbook out to do the homework. But then when I talk to their guardian about how they can do this anywhere they have access to the internet, including on their phone, they get on my side pretty quick.

My learners have really come around to it, too. At first, there was some anxiety around it. Like “If I press Submit and I get it wrong then I’ll have to do more!!!” But now it’s more like “Ok I worked through it and then I got it wrong the first time and then looked at how DM got the right answer and saw my mistake and now I got it right!” Well, I’m sure they think that, at least. But they look forward to DM days and feel like it’s helping them learn, and I agree. I can even say – hey you only did 1/3 problems over this on DM and then you got the question wrong on your quiz, soooo what are we going to do for the next quiz?

Another thing I added this quarter on our first DM assignment two topics at the end that are review from first quarter. I should have done that from the beginning. I need to do more spiraling in general. But even the learners expressed that it was nice to go back to that to try to keep it fresh.

I want to express a big THANK YOU to Zach Korzyk @MrDeltaMath who makes this amazing resource!

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What do you do for your homework/Delta Math to make it good for your learners?

J’aime que mes étudiants voient leur connaissance avec Delta Math.

Favorite Reflection Question Ever

I do not give regular daily homework in my classes, but instead, give what I call a Reflection after every assessment. I give them a week to do it, and it’s always a 5-6 question assignment where they write their responses in a Google Doc and submit it through Google Classroom. The first 2-3 questions are related to the content that was just assessed. Usually, ones that take more thinking and are higher order, or sometimes I make a 3-Act in it, but it’s always something that makes them do more than the rote problems I have to give in the assessments. The last 2-3 questions are more of the typical reflection-type questions that are about the student.

I asked a question on my last Reflection that I think might be my favorite ever. “What is the most important thing you have learned in math class so far this year (could be a math skill or a study/organizational skill; could have been taught by me or learned in some other way)?” Here’s a highlight of some of the responses:

I did get plenty that listed math skills, but these examples just made my heart swell. Special thanks to Sara VanDerWerf @saravdwerf and her suggestion about the Scale of Persistence (https://saravanderwerf.com/2015/12/13/22-minutes-mindset-grit-and-trauma/). The beagle and people stuck on the escalator obviously made an impact.

Ma classe a affecté mes étudiants avec plus des maths simplement.

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.

Day 6: Polygons

Today didn’t feel all that exciting but we got a lot accomplished.

In summer school (and actually in regular school but we’ll see if I change it) I only assign about 6 homework problems a night. I have such different types of students and I want to make sure they all get proper practice of they want it. I do not grade it. It is purely for their practice. The last two years I have done homework quizzes randomly and I don’t know if I will continue it this year. I usually ask if there were any questions from the homework after showing the answers with no work. Usually I get one or two questions. Today we went over all 6 homework questions.  I had other students in the class answer them in multiple ways. I thought it was really beneficial for the class to see the multiple methods that all get the same answer. I did have some kids who clearly didn’t think this was a good use of time – luckily I was the only one who could see their eye rolls after yet another question was asked. How do I get these students to see that this could help them, even if they already got the right answers?

We looked at triangle angle sums and remote interior angles. Then we got into polygon angle sums with a little dabble in naming polygons. I saw what Dan Burfeind did with this and created my own. I gave each group a stack and said to put them in groups. That’s all. They asked how? I said just group them. They asked what words meant. I said just group them with what you know. There was some hesitation at first but after a minute or two they really got into it. Every group made a few different groups and we shared some of the ways to group them. Then I revealed the number of sides and asked if they wanted to regroup. Some did. Some (rightly) said that their categories were just fine. I love that the students were taking just what they noticed with little background knowledge to get things sorted. Great discussions too.

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Students also took their second quiz and started looking at parallel and perpendicular lines in the coordinate plane.

Une journée un peu longue mais au moins j’ai des photos!