I’ve heard this debate about 1,000 times. “How much homework should I give?” well as with nearly everything (outside of math) there is no right answer, and never will be. Even when you are right you are wrong. In a single class there will be students who don’t need any homework because they get it already but then there will be others who have as usual coasted through class with their heads in the clouds and really only learn with threats and deadlines. These people need homework badly and plenty of it because it’s damn near the only education they are going to get.
My advice is to set homework that makes knowing the concepts key and once you have that the homework at hand should be a snap. This will mean that the students who get it already will breeze through their homework but the coasters will need to sit down and learn the subject at hand.
Yeah I agree but how to you do that?
Well how about you flip the homework on its head and ask the students to set original homework for themselves that explains the topic and then explain how the answer was derived. This almost seems counter intuitive “Let them set their own homework?”, well yeah think about it for a second to do this right the student needs to know the topic to enable them set homework that will explain it. If the student doesn’t have a clue what they are talking about they will need to figure it out first to do this.
Or ask them to write a 20 line paragraph that would explain the concept of the topic at hand to next year’s class. Again simple for the people who know but a struggle for those who don’t.
I am not a fan of lists of problems or reams of regurgitated facts, in my opinion this is just a waste of time and hides the core of the education task. Our job is to teach the concepts and ensure that the concepts are understood. The internet has also made my homework strategy more valuable because there are sites and programs readily available that will give students the answer to any problem. These instant answers really only bypass the need for comprehension. I have yet to find a site that will give students instant answers to my homework (maybe there is a start-up in there somewhere) . You need to give homework that encourages students to learn the concepts not the details. Like the old adage “can’t see the wood for the trees” you need to make sure that your students are not blinded from what’s important in math by the pressing need to get their homework out of the way because it’s spoiling my xbox game time.
So next time you have the same old debate about the amount of homework to give go with the answer “Just enough”, because then you’ll always be right.