Homework that is Lost in Translation

“The reasons for homework are pedagogically unsound,” she said. “You either ask a student who has already mastered a concept to do more of that concept—which is essentially busywork. Or, you send a child who has not mastered the concept home to practice and they will likely practice incorrectly, unless they have assistance.”*

This. This is why I hate homework (also? the article, which is referenced at the end of this post, is good! Go give it a read! After you’ve finished this post, of course. Not before. Stop scrolling. Now.)

I was working with Nikki on some easy additions, as requested by her teacher on a homework sheet. With no explicit instructions from the latter, I wrote a few equations in Nikki’s notebook to try. Example of the hardest one I added?




I showed her how I learned to do it, starting with adding up the right column and going left. She got it and with no help from me, when she reached the equation shown above, she got to the right answer.

Then she came home the next day and told me I was doing it wrong. Her teacher said to her that they don’t do it that way anymore. So I asked her how she would do it. And she wrote: 11+11 = ____  She was supposed to use other “visual” methods to figure it out, like drawing, fingers, beads or whatever.

Obviously there is a method to what looks like a madness of little beads to me (or at least I hope so) and probably something that is being lost in translation from the school room to the homework table, so of course I didn’t fight it. I don’t want to create division where Nikki doesn’t know whom to believe: Mom or Teacher. The poor kid struggles enough with most new concepts at school: having me do it ‘differently’ only confuses the situation.

So we got an iPad app that uses the same visuals as the kids use and she and I work on that. She likes it: it’s more like a game that way and less like sitting at a desk with a workbook in front of her and we work on it semi-regularly, but certainly not in a ‘scheduled’ way. It does leave me pondering what we’ll do when it comes to the higher levels of math learning. All I can say is that I hope to goodness there is an app for that!

* Why More and More Parents Are Opting Their Kids Out of Homework 


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