Homework Choice Allows Differentiation and Encourages Creativity

Listen to me present this live at Global Math (recording will be up 2/6/13).

I have recently started offering “choice” homework assignments – and my students LOVE them.  Last week in a survey, many of them said that they loved working on the choice assignments and requested to do more of them.


For the choice assignment, students can do traditional homework (workbook problems only) OR they can do half of the workbook problems and then create their own word problem (with solution) based on that concept.  They can write their problem on paper or create a Google Document and share it with me.

The next day, I have the students work each other’s problems in class.  The students like to share their fun problem.  Plus, they help each other solve their problems when they get stuck or have a question.  It is also great because sometimes they find mistakes in a problem and will help that person understand what they did wrong.  They love working each other problems and teaching (and helping) each other.  I walk around the room looking at their problems and helping as needed.

Choice assignments are automatically differentiated.  Students having trouble with a concept often chose to do the workbook problems so they can check their answers.  Most students who make up problems create ones that are similar to ones that we have done in class.  However, some students make up more difficult problems or go above and beyond with their creativity.

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They are having so much fun making up their own math word problems – and spending so much more time thinking about math.  Students usually dread working word problems but when they are creating their own and solving their friends problems they love them!  I love how excited they are about their math homework and that they have asked me if they can do more choice assignments in the future.  Another benefit for me is that I can use their problems in the future for subsequent classes.  My students are creating creative and engaging word problems for future students!

Here are some examples of the work they have created.

14 thoughts on “Homework Choice Allows Differentiation and Encourages Creativity

  1. Dimensional analysis is now, officially a spiraling topic from 6th to 8th to 10th grades! I didn’t realize you taught it in 6th grade until a recent chat with an 8th grader who was helping her 6th grade sibling with it (yay!). Anyway, would love to chat about possible ways to help the kids retain/reload this skill which they need for me in our 8th grade physics unit, Algebra I, and Chemistry in 10th.

    • Adah,

      I’ve been teaching this since I got here. Some kids have a hard time with it and we are short on time so I almost didn’t do it this year. But I love it so much and it’s a great opportunity to challenge my highest level students so I just couldn’t cut it out. Some kids do have a tough time with it though. I’d love to see how you all teach it so we can be sure we are consistent. Also, with the creative choice this year I think my kids will remember much better!

  2. I like that idea to add to the choices I have! Currently my students just need to pick 10 problems from anywhere. Most pick from the current lesson, but if they need to they can go back and pick ones from before, or they can even look ahead. I have a couple anser keys in class so they can check whatever they decided to do.

    • I sometime do pick 10, but never thought about having them go back and pick what they need. What a great idea!! Stealing it now and implementing it tomorrow! This would also be great for students that didn’t understand the current hw that night, they can go back and work on something they do know. Love it!

  3. I really like this idea, students love to feel in control of their learning. I was wondering what you do with the students that didn’t create a problem while the others are sharing with each other? Do they just do more practice from your questions?

    • I have all of the students work the student created problems. Once students who did problems switch with each other, I assign the remaining students students to these small groups. I hope this is clear. 🙂

  4. Choice homework assignments – what a clever idea! Perhaps you can expand this into “create some problems on the math topic of x that would be useful to someone interested in y”, where y might be baseball, or video games, or rap singers, or whatever the students may really care about.

    Jerry Tuttle

    • These ideas are great and I’m starting them next week. I’ve had students create their own problems for test prep but never worked it into a choice homework assignment. Nor have I given them a context such as what you’ve described. Some students need that framework.

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