“If I could change anything about our class…” About half the responses to that question, mentioned homework. My students are expected to complete an average of about 40 minutes of algebra homework pretty much every night. In a decade where the anti-homework voices seem to be gaining momentum, it can be difficult for my students to trust that what I assign is always in their best interest. So here goes:
- There are many ways to spend classroom time. My goal is to teach math so that it is practical and sticks over the long time. That means I spend most of the classroom time helping students to understand math in the ways it is used in the real world. They learn how to push themselves to make connections, analyze differences, and identify paths to answers that make sense. If we spent large portions of class time reviewing and practicing what was previously learned, students would remember less in the long run and what they remembered would be less likely to be useful. That’s brain science, and I see it in data.
- Students who do not master the art of completing homework as intended will not be ready for college. Homework habits are one of the main reasons my consistently award-winning FHSD college success rates hover around 56% for students who attempt to secure a four-year degree within five years. Too many students expect college professors to figure out what they don’t know and “force feed.” Not only do my student learn to “complete” homework, but they also learn to identify what they don’t know and learn how to do something about it.
- Homework at home provides most of my students an opportunity to think without the distraction of having other humans present. There’s no bell about to ring, so there’s time to think. The refrigerator is around the corner.
- Your competition isn’t primarily the students in the classroom down the hall or even on the other side of town. In today’s economy, your competition spans the entire globe. If you want to eventually have a job you enjoy that pays a living wage, now is the time to develop the skills that employers will value. Math is the main gateway for most of those jobs, and it makes sense that math tends to generate the most homework.
Algebra I is arguably the most important class you will ever take in high school because of the opportunities that these skills afford…especially with the STEM integration I embed. I don’t say that because I teach it. I can’t even say “I love math” because I had to work like crazy to learn it. I teach it because I understand its importance…and I love you!