Dan Meyer is a mathematics teacher who doesn’t believe in the value of homework for homework’s sake. His argument is quite clear. If the teacher is organised, then instruction and practice can be completed in class. He also found in his research that few students actually benefit from mathematics homework. The “A” students don’t need it and the “D” students don’t do it.
The issue for most math teachers, I believe, is one of time management. If your class is slow to start the period and quick to finish, if your transitions are labored, or if you waste time disciplining your class, then you won’t have the time to get through forty problems. The only year I assigned homework with any regularity was during my student-teaching, when my class management plainly sucked, failing by every one of those metrics and more.
It was such a criminal arrangement.
By assigning whatever practice we didn’t finish to homework (I’d like you guys to finish this for homework) or by using homework to compensate for underplanning (tell you what, I’ll let you guys start your homework early) I was transferring the cost of my poor teaching onto my students.
One more time: my time management was a bust so I helped myself to whatever time I wanted from my students’ personal store, whenever I wanted.
I’m not a teacher, but I see an interesting connection between the industrial classroom and the corporate workplace. When I started working on my own I suddenly had much more time to get my real, client-related, work done.
In my previous, traditional job, much of my day was spent in meetings that were not related to my official work. I would have to spend time on internal functions that added no value for my clients. I would then have to work early or late or on weekends in order to get my billable work done. Even my time in the military was filled with ‘secondary duties’ that did not relate to my operational role. On my own, I can accomplish as much in one day as I would in almost a week in my old office. The only meetings I now attend are the ones that I decide to attend, and those are few.
Perhaps teachers and managers have too much control over the discretionary time of those whom they direct. Perhaps teachers can’t or won’t optimize instruction and practice in the classroom. Perhaps managers can’t or won’t optimize their workers’ time. Where is the problem? Not with students and workers.