Myth: Math Homework is Just Busywork

Myth: Math homework is just busywork given by teachers so students have something to do after school.


Truth: Math homework is assigned to increase retention of the topics that are taught.

Contrary to popular belief, math homework is not busywork. The fact that most teachers provide solutions with the assignments and do not grade them may have contributed to that belief. The answers are provided so that you can double check your efforts. Students who regularly do practice score very well on tests. Imagine that!

Actually, I do not even like the word homework. I prefer practice. Frankly, it doesn’t matter where you practice — at home or at school. In fact, some students are so effective with study hall use that they may seldom have work to do at home.

Back to the purpose of assignments… Assignments are practice. This practice helps increase retention of new topics.

Imagine buying a new program for you computer. Learning a classroom lesson is analogous to downloading the new program into the “downloads” folder on your computer. But as all geeks know, downloading is only part of the process. Software must then be installed on the hard drive once it is downloaded. Practicing with a well-designed assignment is like installing the lesson’s content on your hard drive, or your brain. Practicing the new topics helps move new ideas from your short-term memory into long-term memory.

If you neglect this very important element of your learning, you may have a hard time remembering how to do things. Your short-term memory holds only about 7 items and dumps them if you don’t do anything with them. To continue with the computer analogy, the classroom lesson places some items on your mental clipboard. If you go to bed with doing some practice, your clipboard may be erased. What then? You may need to re-download the program. Not a problem. That’s why we have 9th period. But wouldn’t you rather use your 9th period to keep up than to catch up?

Next Tuesday: Your brain can store how many GB of data?