Why I Don't Believe in Homework Anymore

As a math teacher and tutor, I cannot believe I typed those words, much less that I believe them! It is an undisputed fact that math takes practice. It is a process. I like to tell my students that they get better at their given sport or musical instrument or other activity by practicing and that math is exactly like that. It takes repetition. 

So if I don’t just believe this but I KNOW it to be true, how can I not believe in homework. Homework is a task. It is something to be completed. Parents have been asking for decades, “Is your homework done?” Homework has stopped being an effective educational tool. Students complete the task and move on. So many of my students come to their next tutoring session and remember few to none of the skills from prior homework assignments. 

I frequently have parents tell me that their students do well on their homework but struggle with quizzes and tests. This is because once the task of homework is done, it is forgotten. Very few of us can learn something well the first time we attempt it. We have to go back and try it several times before we are proficient. 

We need to replace homework with studying. Studying is quickly becoming a lost art. Students are given assignments, they complete them and unless the material is assigned again, they never look back. I have actually had more than one student say, “But I learned that last year. I don’t remember it now!” I am not faulting the students. They are doing what is asked of them. I am certainly not faulting the teachers. I know first hand that they have more than enough on their plate already. Rather I am saying that we need to be more clear about the goals we have for our students, provide them with a structure to achieve those goals and make sure we give them opportunities for review. In effect, we need to teach studying rather than assigning homework. 

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