If you’re really dying to see what our results are, click here. If you can manage to read the prologue, avoid that mouse button and forge on!

I’m writing this after my second year of teaching. Even though in many ways I’m a neophyte, there is one thing I am sure of. The majority of math teachers out there don’t know how to “do” homework. Myself included. Do any of the following sound familiar?

“I just walk around and look to see who has attempted the homework. I don’t have time to collect and grade each students’ homework.” “I don’t want students to feel penalized if they get home and are completely lost and just couldn’t do the work completely, but I also don’t want them to develop a sense of ‘learned helplessness. I want them to learn to figure things out when they are stuck.” “I want homework to be both a site for practice — so students can naturalize the skills that are introduced in class — and a place for me to know where my kids are at in terms of understanding; it’s a place for students to assess if they know something and it should be a place where I assess the state of the class. Right now it’s not doing either really well.” “I hope that one day homework in my class will partly be about problem solving skills, but at the moment, that’s a pipe dream. It’s just practice of the routine problems we do in class, not really getting my kids to think for themselves. One day I’ll figure out how.”

And of course, the questions:

“How much homework should I assign, if any at all?” “Should I make all my own homework, or just assign problems from the book?” “How much time should I spend at the beginning of class going over homework?” “How much do I really think homework should be worth in terms of the final grade?” “Do I grade homework? If so, on completion or correctness or both?” “How do I grade homework?” “Thinking through the whole homework thing backwards, what really is the point of it? Can I use that answer to come up with the amount and kinds of homework I assign, and how I factor homework?”

These all are things that pop into my head from time to time, and then in the immediacy of creating another lesson plan or writing another email, get pushed to the wayside. I mean, at least no math teacher I have talked to has a system they’re totally happy with in terms of homework. Might as well just do what everyone else does and push on.

And indeed, at least from my 2nd year teaching perspective, this seems to be the general attitude.

So I decided to harness the power of the web, and using Google Docs, my blog, Twitter, and a few emails, asked math teachers to fill out a short survey on how they “do” homework. (My blog plea is here.) The survey questions are way at the bottom of the post, below the fold.

This survey was designed to be open ended, and above all, practical. I wanted to “see” the life of a homework assignment — from its inception to its role in the classroom to its place in a students’ grade. I wanted to let teachers say whatever they wanted to say about homework. The philosophical debates will have to rage elsewhere.

There were a whopping 40 responses. I, in fact, was gunning for 20. I mean, the survey was narrative (so it takes a bit of time to fill out) and restricted to math teachers. So that’s awesome.

Now the question is: what to do with the data collected?

I haven’t read through it yet; I wanted to look at it at the same time y’all did. I’ll be reading it over in the next few days and cobbling together bits and pieces of what other teachers have written about — bits and pieces that will work with my teaching style and in my school — into a cohesive plan for homework next year.

What you’re going to do with it is anyone’s guess. My hope is that you read through the data, pass it along to other math teachers, come back here, and write down your thoughts in the comments below. I don’t expect a conversation will start here, but I’m darn tootin’ hoping one will.

So without further ado, click below for the survey results, or view the PDF below.

homework survey results

(Survey questions are below the fold.)

The questions:

# Pick a class. Think of the class that you feel the most successful with in terms of homework. What math class is it? (e.g. Algebra I, Calculus)
# What is your homework? How do you chose your homework each night (if any)? Is it usually from the textbook or something else? How long do you think most kids in your class spend on this work each night?
# Grading homework. How do you grade this homework? Do you collect it? Glance to see if students attempted it? Do you have students exchange their work? In other words, how do you assess this homework? And how does this factor into their final grade (e.g. homework is 25% of a students’ grade)?
# Homework during classtime. How many times a week does your class meet, and for how long? How much time in each class do you usually spend going over homework? And most importantly, how do you go over homework (if at all)?
# Happy? Overall, are you happy with your homework system? If there are places you aren’t quite happy with your system, what are they?
# Speak now or forever hold your peace! Want to share what the purpose of homework is for you? Have ideas that you don’t use in your class but want to try? Have thoughts about homework that aren’t addressed above? Philosophically disagree with homework? Whatever! Speak!



  1. I didn’t answer the survey because I thought I didn’t really learn anything productive during my first year.

    But, reading through the spreadsheet (thanks sam! so many great ideas to think about) I realized I did have an answer to one question:

    As a first year teacher, I tried about 15 different procedures for everything, but I did find that my late work procedure worked best. Here it is:

    *Any late work (INCLUDING if you’re absent) has to be turned into tutoring, and you have to wait until Ms. J puts the grade in the computer.*

    I love it! I’ve completely eliminated the piles. One thing that I “cheated” on is that at the end of the quarter I’d have those inevitable work days to catch up, and I would accept assignments into a basket on that ONE day. But I’m going to try and eliminate that this coming year.

    Warning: At the beginning, the kids WILL whine. A lot. But I stuck to it and kept pointing out “You’re inconveniencing me by turning it in late, so you need to make the extra effort.” Plus, they had already noticed that I tended to lose late work. Maybe you should “lose” a lot of late work early in the year! :-D :-D

    After this, students could never complain that I lost their assignments because I always graded it in front of them – in class, or after school. And after school, I have the time to look at late work more carefully, for correct answers instead of completeness. I told them outright – YOU are responsible for watching me put your grade in the computer. If you aren’t willing to wait, plan to turn that assignment in again.

  2. I came to your site and survey through the Homeschool Math Blog. I’ve been teaching math in a public High School for over 20 years. I have struggled to find a homework method I was happy with. I was frustrated with students copying off each other, getting credit they didn’t deserve, and then blaming me when they failed the test. I wanted to get across that the purpose of homework was to practice the skills you’ve learned. (Just like a sports team practices for a game)
    Here’s what I came up with. I don’t give “homework”, I give “assignments”. Assignments always come with the answers (usually in the back of the book). Assignments are often blocks of problems the students can choose from to do. Students can do as many or as few problems they feel necessary. Students are encouraged to work with other students if they need help understanding. Students are welcome to ask me questions they may have about their assignment BEFORE the bell rings. After the bell rings, students take a 2-5 question quiz over the previous day’s lesson. The questions may come directly from the lesson, the assignment, or I make them up. Each student has a 100 page comp book in which they take the quiz. I collect the books after the quiz and grade them later in the day. We go over the quiz before proceeding with the day’s lesson. Students are allowed to retake any quiz (but only once per quiz). I usually drop a couple of their lowest quizzes and count the average as a test grade. At first the students protest, especially those who were used to cheating, but later if I say, “No quiz today.” they complain saying, “I’ll get a 100” or “I know this”. I give a quiz almost every single day. I never grade or even look at the assignment unless the student wants me to. If a student does poorly on his quiz, the first question I have is “Did you do your assignment?”
    Sorry this went on so long. I really, really like this and it seems to do what I want it to; rewards those who do their work, doesn’t for those who don’t, manageable.

  3. Nothing official. I read through it and got some thoughts/ideas. And I shared it here. But I don’t know what else I could do that would be super useful. Any ideas?

  4. Hi! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a team of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a wonderful job!

  5. Reblogged this on Risky Math and commented:
    When I find myself getting frustrated because my students won’t do their homework, I reflect over this post and the results from the homework survey. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my search for the perfect homework system.

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