Beneficial Math Homework in Elementary School

Image by: Keatti

The issue of homework has been on my radar this school year.  Depending on where you teach or how involved you are in reading the research on homework effectiveness, the topic can bring out strong opinions.  Is homework truly beneficial at the elementary level?  Is homework given because it’s what the community expects? Where does all the homework go after it’s been graded? Back to the students, to the parents, shoved in a desk, in the garbage (see the picture above) … I hope not. I’m not able to answer these questions concisely.  Since I’m a math teacher, I believe that students need practice.  Generally, (I won’t speak for all teachers) homework is a form of practice, but the homework that is usually (once again, not for all teachers) assigned deals with repeated problems associated with a concept.  The problems are rarely practical and focus on repeated forms of one or two particular concepts.  If a student has a problem with the homework, the adult at home helps, they find help on the Internet, or the student doesn’t complete the homework. Regardless, the student isn’t showing mastery or showing what they have learned.  Should homework be graded?  Many education experts believe that homework isn’t beneficial at the elementary level.  I’ve found that homework is beneficial for some, but not for all.

Instead of having students complete “typical” math homework every night, I’ve decided to look into an innovate approach to homework.  Instead of pages of multiple concrete math problems, the “updated” homework revolves around conversations and self-reflection.  What do I mean by this?  Here’s an example:

This is just an example, but I’m sure an educator could create multiple questions that cover an array of topics that could last for many homework sessions. Change this ideas and implement as you see fit.

So, instead of giving “typical” homework every night, the homework is assigned on a weekly basis.  The homework involves a discussion about math with an adult at home.  The discussion will be documented by the student and a self-reflection piece will be included.  Before giving this type of homework it would be a good idea to discuss this with the parents.  The idea is to connect math concepts taught in class to the practical application outside of the school. I believe that a rubric would be helpful in assessing the “updated” homework.

Author: Matt Coaty

I've taught elementary students for the past 14 years. I enjoy reading educational research and learning from my PLN. Words on this blog are my own.

4 thoughts on “Beneficial Math Homework in Elementary School”

  1. Great idea, I like how it is more authentic and it would also be a neat way for the students to blog about math this way verse paper and pencil. Then students can comment on each other and bring in the 21st century piece of communication and collaboration.

    Another idea to change homework concept is to try the flipped classroom.


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