Math Teachers at Play #10 and Time Savers


balloonsOn Friday, right on schedule, Math Teachers at Play #10 was posted at Homeschool Math Blog.  There’s good information on Wolfram Alpha and homework and optical illusions and a host of other interesting things.

The discussion on homework had me remembering one of my favorite Teaching Time Savers.  Jane Murphy Wilburne explained here how she dealt with homework.

As the students entered class the next day, they would list the page number and problem number of the problems they could not solve, on the front board in a designated area. If the problem was already listed, they placed a check (√) next to it. Once the class started, they were not allowed to record problem numbers at the board. Other students, who were successful in solving these problems, immediately went to the board when they entered the class, indicated that they would solve one of the listed problems, and worked it out in detail. When they finished they signed their name to the problem.

I tried this out in calculus, a course where I assign homework every day, and it worked fabulously.    It didn’t eliminate grading, but it did cut way down on how much time I spent going over homework in class.  The only change I’ve made is that I now  insist that people write down what they had trouble with, so instead of writing just #23 they’d write “#23:  couldn’t get started” or “#23:  what do you do after [this step]?” or “#23:  I got x2 but the book says x3.”  And I count answering the questions correctly as extra credit.  (In perspective, homework is 10% of a person’s grade in calculus; usually each assignment gets 5 points, and there are probably 35 assignments over the semester.  I’ve ended up giving 1 extra credit point for each time a person added correctly, with a cap of earning 100% total for homework.)

I haven’t done this in all courses, but I do use it in every calculus-type course (where the problems tend to be shorter) and it’s gone really well.  So that’s my two cents.

3 Responses to “Math Teachers at Play #10 and Time Savers”

  1. jd2718 Says:

    I use a modified version of this with all my classes.

    Students put up problems (not just numbers) at the beginning of class. I give credit for putting something up.

    They may put up completed problems (showing off?)
    They may put up problems they are unsure of (for comment/completion)
    They may put up problems they could barely start (or couldn’t start)
    And they may put up solutions to incomplete problems their classmates have posted.

    It seems that a lot of activity is going on, but it dramatically reduces time on homework review, and probably increases interest in homework review. Win/win.


  2. Ξ Says:

    Jonathan, I hadn’t thought about getting credit for writing anything up, even a question. That’s an interesting twist — in general I think questions get asked, but I did have a small class once where I think they were more hesitant to put questions up.

  3. Andrea Says:

    Grading math homework is tedious and time consuming. Plus, many students do not complete it independently. I use a 5 min. assessment at the beginning of every class. Sometimes, I pick exact problems from the homework or similar ones. It’s a quick and easy check to see if the students need more practice solving similar problems or if we’re ready to learn the next concept. It’s an easy and quick way to identify where students are struggling.

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