Should you assign Math homework? It’s an age-old question for Math teachers. It used to be a norm that students were sent home with math worksheets to practice number-fact fluency; however, perhaps to the dismay of some the practice has waned in popularity in recent years. On the one hand it seems like a low effort way to increase the time students spend on tasks and thus give them additional practice, for basic math skills. While it obviously does not make sense to give students math they have never seen before, as homework, it seems logical to give students math fact homework to increase their automaticity. However, after teaching for ten years, in 3 different countries, I have generally found students almost never complete their homework, which has personally left me feeling quite jaded with the concept.
A 2018 meta-analysis, of 28 studies, by Fan, Et, al, looked at the topic and found results that were barely statistically significant. This is especially discouraging, when you consider that the authors did not exclude studies which did not have a control group, which likely inflated the effects found.
Fan Et, al Meta-Analysis Results:
Overall this meta-analysis suggests that math homework offers little benefit for students, unless it is marked or the students put a high degree of effort into it. However, even when marked, homework still was not a high yield intervention. When considering how time consuming marking student math homework can be, I remain skeptical of the time-relative value of homework. As teachers have limited time during their day, spending hours marking homework could potentially take from other higher yield efforts.
Written by Nathaniel Hansford
Last Edited, 2022-03-20
Fan. (2017). Homework and students’ achievement in math and science: A 30-year meta-analysis, 1986–2015. Educational Research Review, 20, 35–54.