Piling on the homework -- Does it work for everyone?

August 18, 2008

BINGHAMTON, NY - While U.S students continue to lag behind many countries academically, national statistics show that teachers have responded by assigning more homework. But according to a joint study by researchers at Binghamton University and the University of Nevada, when it comes to math, piling on the homework may not work for all students.

Published in the July issue of the Econometrics Journal, researchers found that although assigning more homework tends to have a larger and more significant impact on mathematics test scores for high and low achievers, it is less effective for average achievers.

"We found that if a teacher has a high achieving group of students, pushing them harder by giving them more homework could be beneficial," said Daniel Henderson, associate professor of economics at Binghamton University. "Similarly, if a teacher has a low ability class, assigning more homework may help since they may not have been pushed hard enough. But for the average achieving classes, who may have been given too much homework in an attempt to equate them with the high achieving classes, educators could be better served by using other methods to improve student achievement. Given these students' abilities and time constraints, learning by doing may be a more effective tool for improvement."

According to co-author Ozkan Eren, assistant professor of economics at the University of Nevada, the study examined an area previously unexplored, namely the connection between test scores and extra homework.

"There has been an extensive amount of research examining the influences of students' achievement, but it has been primarily focused on financial inputs such as class size or teachers' credentials," said Eren. "Our study examined the affect that additional homework has on test scores." While past studies suggest that nearly all students benefit from being assigned more homework Henderson and Eren discovered that only about 40% of the students surveyed would significantly benefit from an additional hour of homework each night.

According to Henderson, the findings should be of particular interest to schools who have responded to the increased pressures to pass state-mandated tests by forcing students to hit the books even harder. "This does not mean that homework is unimportant for average achievers," says Henderson. "But it does mean that this population may also benefit from other activities such as sports, art or music, rather than additional hours of math homework."

So what can teachers take away from the study? Henderson points out that every student is unique and while umbrella policies may benefit some, they generally cannot be applied to all.

"In my own personal experience I see that each semester requires a different approach," says Henderson. "This is even true when I teach the same course twice in a semester. Different times of the day or lengths of classes require different methods. Just as different quality students require different approaches."

Henderson also points out that repetition has been proven effective for some but not all subjects and what may have worked one academic year may need to be altered the next.

"Teachers should consider quality over quantity when it comes to homework assignments," he says. "In the end it should be up to the individual teacher to decide how to motivate and educate their students."

According to Henderson, the learning process needs to remain a rich, broad experience.

"One of the most beautiful things about America to me is the creativity that we instill in our primary and secondary schools," says Henderson. "I know that we lag behind many countries in test scores, but I believe we also produce some of the most creative, enthusiastic students in the world."
-end-


Binghamton University

Related Math Articles from Brightsurf:

Smokers good at math are more likely to want to quit
For smokers who are better at math, the decision to quit just adds up, a new study suggests.

Not a 'math person'? You may be better at learning to code than you think
New research from the University of Washington finds that a natural aptitude for learning languages is a stronger predictor of learning to program than basic math knowledge.

Speak math, not code
Writing algorithms in mathematics rather than code is not only more elegant but also more efficient, says 2013 Turing Award winner Leslie Lamport.

Math that feels good
Mathematics and science Braille textbooks are expensive and require an enormous effort to produce -- until now.

Using math to blend musical notes seamlessly
MIT researchers have invented an algorithm that produces a real-time portamento effect, gliding a note at one pitch into a note of another pitch, between any two audio signals, such as a piano note gliding into a human voice.

Novel math could bring machine learning to the next level
In recent years, a theory called 'Topological Data Analysis,' stemmed from a branch of Mathematics so abstract that it did not seem to have any application whatsoever in the real world, has been making computers much better at recognizing meaningful structure inside all kinds of large datasets (a.k.a.

Study shows we like our math like we like our art: Beautiful
A beautiful landscape painting, a beautiful piano sonata -- art and music are almost exclusively described in terms of aesthetics, but what about math?

Phase transitions: The math behind the music
Physics Professor Jesse Berezovsky contends that until now, much of the thinking about math and music has been a top-down approach, applying mathematical ideas to existing musical compositions as a way of understanding already existing music.

IQ a better predictor of adult economic success than math
IQ in childhood is a better indicator of adult wealth than math for very preterm and very low-weight babies, according to a new study in PLOS ONE.

Math + good posture = better scores
A San Francisco State University study finding that students perform better at math while sitting with good posture could have implications for other kinds of performance under pressure.

Read More: Math News and Math Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.