I love your approach and a lot of the details. I guess my only immediate reservation would be the necessity for homework. A lot of U.S. kids simply can not do homework. They are homeless; have full-time jobs; are tending ailing grandparents or little brothers, etc.That is an important point, so I should clarify my views. Homework is not a matter of principle for me. It is a component in a comprehensive approach, and the same goals can be accomplished in other ways. In my teaching, it played a key role, because most work in class was collaborative, but almost all assessments were individual. As one of my colleagues put it: "We work in groups today in order to learn how to work alone tomorrow." The process was (more or less):
- Week 1: You learn a new concept in class, where you can get help from your peers and the teacher.
- Week 2: You apply the concept in short homework assignments. Those help you sort out what you understand from what you are still working on, which will make it easier for you to get exactly the help you need when going over the homework with your group.
If a student cannot do homework because of their home situation, the school should offer study hall time so that "homework" can be done at school. If the school cannot or will not do that, and many students are unable to do homework, then some class time can be allotted for that: time where you work on your own, after plenty of time working with peers, and prior to being quizzed. Of course, giving up class time for this will reduce coverage, but it may be a price worth paying.
However, I should say that I have heard from more than one teacher that homework completion increased dramatically once homework was lagged. It turned out that the reason many students weren't doing the homework was because they didn't know how to do it. Lagging gave them time to learn the concepts, and made homework possible. So before abolishing homework, I would try both lagging it, and offering in-school time for it. More students will learn more math than with no homework at all.
See below my signature for an excerpt from what I wrote in 2013 in response to someone who asked for my views on abolishing homework. Today's post is intended to complement what I wrote then — I still agree with it.
Most learning happens in class, and one should not overdo homework. Too much homework only antagonizes kids and in most cases, it does not help their learning.
On the other hand, a small amount of homework is a good thing:
- It is a form of differentiation, as it allows kids to take different amounts of time to do the same assignment. (The nature of what happens in class in a cooperative learning culture is that racing is discouraged, and kids work more or less at the same pace, with the faster students slowing down to help others.)
- It gets the message across that it takes work to learn anything substantial, and that while in class we work in groups, the ultimate goal is to understand the material well enough to deal with it on your own.
- It's a place to do the often necessary but often boring work of basic drill and review, thereby saving class time for more interesting and substantial engagement.