Recently I have transitioned from assigning traditional style homework to giving students thoughtful reflection assignments, this approach is based on advice from Jo Boaler's new book "Mathematical Mindsets."
Now to the heart of the argument, which is worth your consideration. A student's home environment has a considerable effect on how or even if they do homework. Let's look at two possibilities to see the differences in environment that could be present in a student's home life:
1.) Student number 1 comes from a supportive family, both parents are college graduates and understand the importance of education. This student has parents that regularly ask about their homework, look in to see what topics their child is covering in school, and provide a quiet environment for homework to be the only focus until it is complete.
2.) Student number 2 comes from a working class family, both parents work long hours and student 2 has three younger siblings that they are responsible for watching after school until their parents get home. This student does not have anyone to check in with about homework progress, and their parents are often to tired or busy to engage with their child on homework or school in general.
The NCTM website has a definition of the Equity principle, which I have cut and pasted for your convenience below.
- Equity. Excellence in mathematics education requires equity—high expectations and strong support for all students.
Is it our goal to penalize students grades based on the home environment they have very little control over? Is it our goal to help students from all backgrounds achieve the same level of success given a similar amount of effort?
Your answers to these questions may change the way you approach assigning homework.
Credit for this idea should go to Jo Boaler and her new book "Mathematical Mindsets," as well as NCTM for giving us a clear definition of equity.