Friday, April 06, 2012

How Much is Enough?

When I first started teaching 20 years ago, I was happy that my textbook had a guide to let me know what problems (and how many) to assign my students. I had no real idea how much was enough. Of course, at that point, most of the assignments were like #1-39 odd. I learned that it was a good idea to look at the problems before just assigning #1-39 odd carte blanche.

Fast forward to now, 20 years later. Assigning 20-30 problems a night doesn't work. I'm struggling to get my students to complete any outside assigned problems at times. So, as I was mowing the lawn today, I was wondering, how many problems is enough practice? Can you put a number on it? What practice do you assign on a regular basis? I look forward to reading your comments.


misscalcul8 said...

I read somewhere that if students can do a problem correctly five times in a row that it shows mastery. So I like to stick to 5-10 problems a night. But this is after we've done anywhere from 6-15 problems in class. That means that students have been exposed to every concept at least 11-25 times. And hopefully somewhere in there they can do five in a row on their own. And I find anything more than 10 doesn't get done. Plus, if they can't do it, then they don't need to do it wrong 39 times. And if they can do it, then they don't need to do it 39 times. So....that's my rationale.

John Berray said...

I still think in terms of number of minutes it takes to do the assigned practice. Twenty to thirty minutes is enough, which might be ten, maybe fifteen problems. My students have a six class day so any requirement beyond that doesn't seem fair. I'm heading towards the less is more campaign. Less homework outside of class, more activities in class that accomplish the same learning. I think I get this from reading Dan Meyer and hearing Alfie Kohn's diatribe on the research behind homework. Knowing how to find the sweet spot plagues me still too.

Jason Buell said...

I'm with John and Elissa in the less is more category. At my new school there's somewhat of an expectation that I'll assign hw (which I've been feigning ignorance about.) so I think next year I'm going to have to do it. But as I'm thinking about it I'm leaning more towards HW as a spaced practice/review kind of thing. I'd prefer for new learning and new practice to be in class when I'm around. But I could be happy with assigning a few review problems a night. Stuff we've hopefully gotten a hang of by now and the purpose is just to keep it active in their brains. Ideally then I'd have less review to do when a new topic needs an older skill and of course there's the end of course test to think about. But IDK. It's all theoretical.