Many students and parents often feel that math homework can be overwhelming and exhausting.
A number of studies have been conducted concerning the advantages and disadvantages of homework, some showing there is no academic value in homework up until grade 5, except a purely disciplinary one; some suggesting that homework should be eliminated in all grades; while others stating that homework is a necessary component of student learning without which a deep understanding of the concepts studied in class cannot be achieved.
Mathematics is a subject where in order to truly understand and master certain concepts, it is necessary to look at them from different angles using a variety of approaches. Sometimes, certain concepts just need to be drilled to avoid reinventing the process every single time and just using the algorithm. Therefore, math homework is needed and can strongly benefit a student.
In what way and how much math homework is to be completed each day is an important part of whether a student would feel motivated to complete the homework.
Here we present some strategies that could help eliminate the struggle that some students and parents may experience when it comes to math homework.
1. If your child does not understand what they are doing they will not be doing it.
Just put yourself in your child’s place. You are given a task at work that you know nothing about and the expectation is that you will complete it by the end of the work day. What will you do? Most likely, you will try to avoid it if you can or look for guidance from experienced colleagues and try to get help from someone who knows how to do it.
The easiest solution your child could find is to tell you that there is no homework.
But this may simply be their way to avoid doing any homework, even though they know that they will continue struggling at school.
Therefore, it is a good idea to stay in touch with the teacher and occasionally find out if there is homework. It also makes sense to talk to your child about whether they understand the material covered at school, what their main challenges are, etc. Try collecting as much information as possible and then think of a plan of how to help your child improve on those missing skills. Just think of being asked to add fractions, when they do not even fully understand what fractions are and what adding fractions means. Or how about calculating percentages, solving a linear equation or creating a pie graph. There are a number of resources online, one of which is www.intomath.org which provides an accelerated grade-specific foundation building courses.
2. “When” and “How Much” is important.
When a student has a lot of homework, it may look overwhelming and discouraging. For a successful student it may look like “why would I do it, if I already get all of it,” while in reality homework exercises may contain examples not covered in class and without trying which a student may not be 100% successful during the evaluation. For a struggling student it may just be too much to tackle all at once and they would rather not even bother.
Thus, deciding when to do homework and how to structure it is very important.
In our blog post How to Manage Your Time: 5 Useful Time Management Tips we are discussing how to measure one’s productivity levels during the day. This may be useful when determining the homework time – right after school or before bedtime? Sometimes it takes a few attempts to see what time is the best for your child.
Chunking the assigned homework may also be a good solution: completing part of it right after school and the other part later in the evening. In the age of ever shortening attention span this could be a great approach and a solution to the homework struggle.
3. Who does not like to be rewarded (especially for math homework)?
Introducing a daily or a weekly reward for completed homework could be one of the ways to get your child interested in doing the homework. Maybe they want to see that new movie coming up in theaters or they have really been looking forward to the new Xbox game.
As long as it is not perceived as bribing, but rather as a reward for an actual genuine effort and quality work, it’s all good.
Eventually, when your child gets into the homework routine, they may forget about the rewards part and just enjoy the fact that they are now doing much better in math, understand it and are able to complete that same amount of homework faster than before. Their improved grades would also provide satisfaction to both of you.
In middle and high school, math homework is an essential component of improved understanding and success. Establishing a homework routine early, using some strategies to make it less of a burden on a student, will help ensure it is seamlessly followed by your child in the future.