Over the Christmas break, I heard from many parents and students about their homework woes. I can’t possibly tell all the stories, but over the next few days, I’ll describe a few. (If you have a story, you’d like to share, either email it to me or post in the forums.)

One ninth grader attends a New York City public high school which prohibited homework over the break. So, in the last math class before the break, the ninth grader’s teacher assigned 220 math problems (all factoring trinomials). The teacher explained to the groaning students that the homework wasn’t “holiday homework,” since it wasn’t due the day school restarted, but the following day.

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Sara,

Jen has a similar story. Her school sent a notice saying there would be no assignments given over the break but she had her art “final” which took hours…the teacher gave it to them a few weeks before the break with a due date after on the premise that they could complete and submit BEFORE the break…except Jen had so many pre-Christmas assignments due there was no time for her to work on it other than the break!!! The shame of it is the assignment was worthwhile and Jen did a phenomenal job but with a price…keep making the noise and I will keep spreading the word.

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While 220 problems seems like a lot, and it is admittedly a bit overboard, take a minute to calculate how long they will actually take. For freshman in high school, factoring trinomials should be nearly instantaneous, and if it isn’t, 220 problems certainly will make it so. For argument’s sake, however, with writing it down and everything, say it takes 30 seconds a problem, which is a huge overestimate. That means the whole assignment will take 110 minutes, which spread evenly over 11 days (Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, Tu, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, Tu. Due on Wed), that is a whopping 10 minutes a day. While you may say that is 10 minutes too many, I think that anyone can find 10 minutes in a day to do their math homework. While factoring trinomials is certainly busywork, spending 10 minutes a day on more thought-provoking problems (e.g. proofs, or new material) over the break is certainly useful, and makes sure the kids don’t foget everything by the time they get back.

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So the teacher basically wants them to do 220 problems in one night!? That would be nearly impossible with all of the other assignments the students will likely receive. This teacher is just trying to find a loophole, and it’s a shame that after all of the students’ hard work, a short break during Christmas is too much to ask.

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