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**Assigning homework**has been a hotly debated topic in recent years, and for good reason. The traditional theory argues that homework offers students additional time to practice and reinforce the skills presented in class. However, theory and reality are two different worlds, particularly with math homework at the elementary level.

The Downside to Assigning Homework

### The most significant drawback to assigning homework is that you, as a teacher, may have to undo what a student has done and practiced. Then, you will need to re-teach the lesson so the students comprehend and master the material.

## What if you have a student who ...

- doesn’t really understand the concepts?
- has poor number sense?
- has a parent at home “helping” to simply get the schoolwork done?
- has a parent who CAN'T help them because of language or some other barrier?
- rushes through assignments to just get it done?
- uses math aids to finish the work (computer, calculator, etc)?
- is fabulous with rote memorization, but still doesn’t quite understand number sense?
- can’t quite figure out the assignment out of context or out of the classroom?

# Alternatives to Homework

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should adopt a “one and done” policy, either, where you don’t practice and reinforce new skills. To work toward true mastery, the application of skills IS important. And of course, many schools REQUIRE the assignment of homework.

## Daily cumulative review

Based on my experience along with recent research in the field, I think that daily cumulative review is a better solution for mastery and retention. Math concepts and skills will spiral, scaffold, and layer as students age. By providing a daily cumulative review in your classroom (instead of homework), you will notice the disparity in your students’ knowledge base much sooner than you would by correcting homework assignments during non-school hours.

- This allows the children to ask you questions directly when they are confused.
- You can address and misconceptions much sooner.

## Projects & Assessment: A better way to practice!

**The true test in math isn’t rote memorization, but rather, applying new skills to problems or a solo or group project.**

While doing an individual or group project, incorporate informal questions as a form of assessment to check for mastery. The process:

- Students work on a real-world problem related to what students are learning in class, either independently or in groups.
- Students explain their thinking to another student or in small groups, sharing different ways that were used to solve the problem.
- Further, check for understanding by having students write about how they solved the problem.

How we review projects and tasks becomes as important as the work itself. We must move beyond just getting answers to allowing students to justify how the problem was solved. How do we accomplish this with such limited, precious time?

This is a little cheat-sheet that I use when I review the problem-solving process with my students and follow-up on student work:

Click to get it free here.

Benefits to In-Class Work

Transitions to higher levels of math will be much easier when students have strong number sense. By observing the review process firsthand, you can see the progress students are making in developing number sense.

- First, it is easy to "check for understanding".
- Second, you can spot common misconceptions early on and very quickly determine who needs more intensive small group work. Then, you can individually guide and coach students as they further practice skills.
- Third, you can easily see how students have created meaning for themselves by observing the problem-solving process.

What if I am REQUIRED to assign homework?

Try assigning only one problem that requires deeper thinking rather than a bunch of problems that are void of any real-work context. Here is an example of a one problem homework assignment:

Click here to get this free template.

Bottom Line

Research indicates that students with no homework are NOT at a disadvantage. Why not try these ideas and see what you think? You may simplify things and have less preparation for your classes, while your students will LOVE having NO homework!

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