Why do we set homeworks?
What is the point of homework? What are we trying to achieve by setting the kids homework?
Consolidation and practice of what was learnt in class? Promoting self-study skills and independent thought? Learning of new concepts?
I’d like to think we set homework for all these reasons. It is well known that getting the kids doing homework improves their attainment in maths. Colleagues I have discussed the topic of homework with have commented that they find that lagging the topic of the homework approximately one week behind when the topic was studied in class leads to better attainment. This is perhaps unsurprising as it promotes the revisiting of previous learning to secure long-term memory retention. If you haven’t seen the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve before then you really must look at it now! It doesn’t tell a good teacher anything new or surprising, but does answer the question that perpetuates through every staff room: “why can’t the kids remember what they learned last week?”. Revisiting concepts is the key to long-term memory rentention. Repetition, repetition, repetition.
We use the brilliant MyMaths software for some of our homeworks. Student voice surveys we have conducted suggest that on the whole, pupils enjoy doing the online homeworks more than conventional book-based ones. This isn’t surprising since most modern pupils feel more comfortable infront of a computer than a textbook. The big bug-bare we have as teachers about the online MyMaths homeworks is that the kids type their answers into the software and don’t have to record their workings. As teachers we are more interested in their route taken to the solution rather than the final destination itself as this shows up misconceptions in understanding.
Our pupils must never lose the skills of putting pen to paper to show workings through maths problems. I do wonder sometimes how we can combine the engaging ICT format that seems to motivate kids so well with the traditional skills learned through textbook homeworks. In short, I haven’t any perfect answers, only ideas. I’m not sure whether the ideas have value and are worth trying so would really appreciate your thoughts in the comments section below!!! Here are a couple of ideas I have been pondering on recently: Continue reading