Thursday, March 17, 2016

Homework thoughts

I was recently asked to describe some of the latest research on the efficacy (or lack thereof) of homework in the elementary grades. Here is my response.

Q: According to Duane, research shows math homework in K-5 doesn't increase student achievement, why do we use it? Why does Eureka Math have it? Would like to see the research to support this?

Despite decades of research on homework, there is absolutely no consensus on its effectiveness. In general most studies agree that homework is least effective for elementary students. Harris Cooper, a Duke University researcher, found that homework did not correlate to achievement for elementary students, though it did for older students.

While his 2006 study does indeed show a positive relationship between homework and student outcomes at the upper grades (middle school and high school) there was one group in the study for which homework was not correlated with achievement: elementary school students. For these children, the report states that “the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero,” or no relationship.

At best, most homework studies show only a correlation, not a causal relationship between homework and achievement. Ironically, Epstein (1988) found that “more time spent doing homework, more help from parents, and more requests for parent involvement from teachers were associated with lower achievement in reading and mathematics.”

Moreover, Swank (1999) examined the differences in test scores among fourth graders who either did or did not do homework. Her findings indicated no differences in math achievement scores between students in the two homework groups.

Lastly, there is evidence that parents - intending to be supportive of their child during homework time - actually increase the level of math anxiety in their child. Essentially, math anxiety is contagious and homework is prime time for transmission.