homework with purpose...

The homework assigned to my algebra students either prompts students to apply concepts learned in class or investigate upcoming concepts. My goal is to provide a format that enables my students to master the foundational concepts required for future math learning.

Mastery requires focused practice over days or weeks. After only four practice sessions students reach a halfway point to mastery. It takes more than 24 more practice sessions before students reach 80 percent mastery. And this practice must occur over a span of days or weeks, and cannot be rushed (Anderson, 1995; Newell & Rosenbloom, 1981).

Since research shows that students need multiple encounters with the content before they reach mastery of the concepts, I continually integrate prior learning throughout our lessons. The main deposits for revisiting concepts occur in our MATHercise routine, Unit Menus, and spiraled assessments. You can read more about our daily MATHercise bell ringer activity here. It's a great way to continue working on previous concepts while allowing me to work with individual students or small groups. Next, the unit menus provide a structure of choice for enrichment and remediation on previous concepts. You can read more details and view a sample or invest in a book of blackline masters by Laurie Westphal. Finally, each unit assessment in algebra contains one or two competencies of distributed practice from previous units. It helps my students to keep practicing concepts...as we say in class...if you don't use it, you'll lose it!

And to allow feedback on homework outside of the school day, I have organized a wikispace for my students to post homework questions. The settings allow me to receive an email notice when a response is posted. And with the access of email on my iPhone, I'm able to respond quickly. But nothing melts my heart more than when my students start helping each other in our MathChat forum! A similar discussion forum for your class is available through edmodo; however, I prefer the organization of post titles in the wikispace.

This post is part of the Middle School Math Sunday Funday collaboration of posts by middle school math teachers!

Next week's topic will be...Favorite Math Class Games. Let me know if you have a special request.

Have a fabulous weekend...make it count!



  1. I so agree with providing students with multiple encounters to master content. Did you see the article in Sunday's Democrat in the perspective section? Interesting read.

    1. The "algebra is not necessary" article? I read it several weeks ago on Twitter as well. I'm interested in a discussion of how algebra is taught more than a discussion that it has little value. ;)