When I began my teaching career I had a strict policy of homework every night except on days of tests and quizzes. Since that point I have done a variety of strategies to get students on board with some home practice:
1.) Collect it each day and grade it and get it back. It was a nightmare to try to get it back with comments that were meaningful.
2.) Stamp it that they attempted each problem by just a cursory glance, go over the answers, and collect it after we went through it. I had students who were just writing the problem down to get credit for an attempt but alas they did not actually do any mathematical thinking.
3.) Provide all of the answers ahead of time, ask for questions on the work and collect. This strategy just turned into a copy the back of the book nightmare.
4.) Homework quizzes where I would pick a “random” day to hand out a paper that had four problems selected from the homework (ex p.432 #6) and students would copy from their homework to the homework quiz. Each day I went over the homework so they should’ve had the answers in their work. Students would claim that I always “picked the one problem they didn’t do”. Definitely less grading but did not achieve the goal of more mathematical thinking/practice.
5.) Do not assign homework at all. This has been my strategy of the last month. Anything that we did not complete in class I would just cut off of the assignment and grade what was completed. I have actually seen MORE mathematical thinking with this approach than most of the others. Although students may only complete 3 problems in the time allotted I feel like with the time they do spend it is more beneficial.
I don’t really like any of these strategies and am open to other possibilities. Additionally, I often question whether homework really does what we want it to do. By that I mean, does it really strengthen students’ skills or is it mindless practice for those who “get it” already. Do I assign homework because it “feels like the right thing to do” or because it meets some other objective. I will continue to ponder this.
What do you do about homework?