Take a second and think about the word "homework." What comes to mind? What do you and your colleagues think the purpose of homework is? What do your students think? And, what do families in your community think homework accomplishes?

In his November 29th Magma Math talk, Dr. Peter Liljedahl spoke about homework, highlighting that the biggest problem with homework is the misalignment of goals between teachers and students. When teachers are asked what the biggest value of homework is, they say they want homework to be a safe space for students to make mistakes, to see if students can do the math on their own, and for students to check their understanding and engage in self-assessment.

However, not one student said what teachers said. Students typically view homework as something to be done for grades or to meet the expectations of teachers and parents.

Reflecting on my own experience as a teacher, I often saw students copying homework from each other in the mornings. With my own children, homework was a challenge. As a teacher, I wanted them to practice and self-assess, but it was difficult to justify repetitive tasks they had already mastered or assignments that only led to frustration when they didn’t understand. This often resulted in practicing incorrect methods or giving up entirely.

The solution that Peter proposes in *Building Thinking Classrooms *(BTC) is to make homework not graded and not required. He suggests instead offering students *check-your-understanding** *(CYU) assignments in which the first several problems are mild, the next few are medium, and the last few are spicy. Magma Math is an optimal way to have students complete CYU assignments.

Peter suggests that students have the option to start where they want to and do as many problems as they want. His research shows that when the rules are: do your own, you choose where to start, and check your answer with someone at your table and/or get feedback from Magma, you “can’t get them (students) to stop because they are having a ‘mastery experience.’ And the choice of mild, medium or spicy ensures that they will have success. It is incredibly satisfying for students to experience getting math correct, and they want to have more of it!” CYU assignments can be started in class and continued at home as *optional* homework, and in Magma, students get the satisfaction of knowing immediately if they answered a question correctly.

An interesting aspect of CYU assignments is that Nuance is important. The names mild, medium, and spicy inspire students; Alternatively, easy, medium, hard or novice, expert, or ninja disincentivize students. Peter thinks this is because the headings are about preference, not about the ability of the doer of math. Also, it is important to LIMIT the assignment to 3 levels. Interestingly, adding a 4th category (like extra spicy) leads kids to stop at medium - when you have 3 categories, the students all want spicy.

Another component of homework that I struggled with ALL the years that I taught was the process of correcting it and handling questions. My early days involved correcting homework myself (not-sustainable) or reading answers aloud to students. That evolved to projecting answers, or even handing out copies of the answers so students could correct their work in class, but this too was time consuming and not satisfying to my students or me. And which problems to go over?!?!?!? Correcting and going over homework questions could easily consume the first half of the class period if I wasn’t careful, but I felt a real tension in that if I asked my students to do the problem, I needed to address questions that arose. In Magma, teachers can use the heat map as well as the “common error" feature to identify the problems that were most problematic for their students, use student solutions to help students understand the problems, and also use the heat map to identify individual students who need additional support or practice.

Another tension that I navigated and have seen in classrooms is that students want to get started on the homework during class, presumably to get it done. Students’ free time outside of class is very limited, and many school systems are working to avoid assigning homework for equity purposes. While many students have extracurricular activities, some students work to help support their families in the late afternoons and evenings, and homework can be an impossible additional burden to carry. If we shift our thinking from homework to CYU assignments using Magma, it makes sense to give students time to work on CYU assignments in class as they provide an opportunity for students to work “on their own together.” This is a time when students can use each other as resources when they get stuck with support from Magma and their teacher.

Magma solves many of the struggles that teachers have with homework. As soon as students submit their solution to a problem, they get immediate feedback as to correctness as well as support via the ability to look at the answer and then work backwards to figure out the math. Teachers can monitor the heatmap for CYU assignments to see which problems students are doing, encourage students (either to take on more spice, or maybe go a little milder), and see which problems are proving more difficult or which might yield an interesting mathematical discussion. We can also support our students to understand the metacognitive aspects of homework by asking them to reflect on what they can do and understand and where they need more support and practice.

Curious to learn more about how Magma Math can transform your classroom? Check out our resources for additional tips, guides, and success stories from educators like you!