Meaningful Homework and CPM

I do not grade homework. I have been teaching a long time, so I have tired everything (see the list of blogs I have written about homework at the end of this post). Over the years I have graded homework for correctness and completion. In most cases I found that homework grades artificially inflated a students grades, and in some cases  brought students grades down. Most importantly, because of help from friends, tutors and parents, homework grades rarely represent what the students actually know.

I would love for my students to engage with math outside of class time for about 20 minutes a day.  I do not want my students feeling lost, overwhelmed, or frustrated at home if they do not understand the homework.  And I want the students to feel that the homework is important because it is relevant to the work that we do in class.

I do not grade homework, but I do walk around each day to see if students had any questions on their homework (check if students are doing it).  If they do not, I have them fill out a Homework Responsibility Sheet that I keep on file.  Still, without the promise of a grade, homework completion has not been as consistent as I would like. I use the CPM (College Preparatory Mathematics) curriculum, and the spiraling homework is an important part of the curriculum, as the problems increase in difficulty each time they appear in the Review/Preview.  In CPM, the class lessons are a set of problems the students work through as a team in a “guided” discovery model. Then, they have a set of spiraling problems called “Review / Preview” that they do for homework. Since the homework is spiraling, it is not what the students have done in math classes before (example: 2 – 30 evens of the same exact type of problem they did in the lesson).  So, some of my students do not feel that the homework is related to classwork. Additionally, the spiraling homework can be challenging if students have forgotten how to do a concept. So over Christmas Break, I came up with a new homework system.

Instead of assigning the “Review / Preview” problems at the end of the section for homework, I assign ONE problem from the next section.

This problem is usually the very first problem we would have worked on in class the next day. Usually the first problem is not too difficult for them to do, because it is an introductory problem that reviews past skills as an introduction to a new concept. When students come in the next day, they get the ONE problem out and talk about their answers. I walk around the room to check students answers and to see if everyone is participating. Once we are finished reviewing this problem, we can jump right into the next problem in the lesson. This “jump starts” the lesson, enabling us to finish the section early. And then, the students have time to work on their “Review / Preview” in class. This way they have each other, and me, as a resource while they tackle the more challenging review problems.

My students absolutely love the new system. The work that they are doing at home is not too difficult, and connects to the work that we are doing in class. The more difficult “Review / Preview” homework is done in class where other students and I can help them. I did have some students not doing the ONE problem when I first switched over, but since it was the first problem of the lesson, they felt lost through most of class, even when their classmates tried to catch them up. This has encouraged more consistent completion of their ONE homework problem.  As I tell them, everyone usually has the time to do just ONE problem, right?

UPDATE:  We just reached the end of the chapter, and there were some important problems that we did not get to during class time, as it’s difficult for some students to finish all of the Review/Preview problems during class time.  At the end of the chapter I assign the closure problems. There usually aren’t that many closure problems and the kids are always asking for more practice.  So, I went back through the chapter and re-assigned the important problems that most students were not able to get to in addition to their closure problems.  It did not add that many problems as I was careful not to assign duplicates, especially if they were easier ones that the closure problems. Since we work on closure problems in class, I am excited to know that the kids will have done almost all of the Review / Preview, in class, for probably the first time ever. I definitely expect this to strengthen their skills!

My Past Posts About Homework:



12 thoughts on “Meaningful Homework and CPM

  1. Love this idea. We use CPM as well and struggled with having time for homework review each day. We painstakingly went through and aligned each review/preview problem to one of our learning targets and now give students weekly “choice” assignments where they pick a certain number of problems based on learning targets where they need continued practice. I love the element of student self assessment and many more students buy in to the value of their homework because they see how practing their needed learning targets translates to higher formative/summarize assessment scores which is what we base our grades on.

    • I assigned standards to each hw problem as well! It’s still so tough for them to find enough time to do it though. And students don’t know how to do all of the problem, so I also give them optional Delta Math per standard. It’s a learning process! If you try this and have suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

  2. How do you have time to do the review/preview problems during class? Sounds like a great idea! Do you do all the review/preview during class? Are they responsible for doing all of them? Is there some way you check?

    I am having serious problems with homework. I hate assigning it because of the massive amount of copying. Most of them don’t use homework properly and it makes me crazy. I am looking for a new plan.


    • Students do not get through all of them. I have them do the most difficult, newer concepts in class. Once those are finished, they move on to the problems that are more review. I have them chose the ones they feel will be most challenging. This way, everyone is working on different problems, so there really isn’t much copying. I don’t grade or check homework bc so many students just do it to get the check or the grade, not for understanding – which defeats the point. Good luck! I know it’s a struggle!

  3. You have clearly done your homework on this topic. What stands out for me is that by assigning just one problem you encourage a sense of manageability while also cultivating a habit. One problem per day becomes an avenue for math thinking that is doable and over time recognizable as time well invested. I teach PE. When I spend 5-7 minutes stretching every day, I notice that become more flexible over time. You may well be offering your students an even greater service by creating the conditions for long term efficacy in math and perhaps other areas.

  4. Love this idea! Will try it and let you know how it goes. We teach blocks every other day.
    What are your strategies for keeping students moving forward during class. I lose 25% of them, and I sometimes I just let it go bc I want to focus on the students who are trying to get educated.
    Thoughts? Thanks Julie!

    • My students work in groups, so that helps to keep all students going. But sometimes, whole groups can get distracted. I stop their group work intermittently throughout class to have whole group discussions, then start them off again. If a group isn’t moving forward, I will just have them skip working on the problem we just summarized and start fresh on the next problem. This keeps them moving along and helps keep them motivated, as sometimes students can get quagmired on certain problems.

      Since reading problem sets out of the book can get old, I try to mix up how the students are working from day to day. Most days I have at least one problem where they must work through it for a few minutes on their own, and then I have them share out with their group. Some days we do Desmos for part or all of the lesson, which they love. On days when there are only one or two large problems, I project one problem at a time on the board for everyone to see and then let them use white boards.

      I’m excited to hear how this works in your classroom! Let me know how it goes. 🙂

  5. Our district is looking to adopt CPM for next year as we are scheduled to get new curriculum. We piloted from the program and really liked it but agree that the homework was a lot and did not have the desired results for our students. As a department we have discussed your post and had a couple of questions. First, do you check in the problem that is assigned for homework on a completion basis? Second, how do the students who do not complete the assigned problem fare the next day? Do you feel that they are able to get “caught up” well enough with their group discussion. Thank you! As we are looking at the possibility of adopting this curriculum it is wonderful to hear how other people are handling similar problems in their classes (especially when they are finding success!)

    • Yes, I only check it for completion, not accuracy. However I do go around to make sure their problem is accurate as they are discussing it in their groups. Usually at least two kids will have an accurate answer and that helps out students who may have missed it.

      If they do not complete the problem, I have them sign a Homework Responsibility Form. Students who do not do the problem usually start “doing it” as soon as they sit down so they can catch up. They continue working while the other students review their answers. They rarely have time to finish it, but they at least hear the conversation. So while not totally up to speed, they are caught up enough to move on to the next question with their team. I’ve also put a couple of these questions (like the exact homework problem) as a quiz question. That has really motivated them!

      One more thing I just did is go back through the chapter and re-assign important problems that we didn’t get to when I assign their closure. There aren’t that many closure problems and the kids are always asking for more practice. I found that this is the perfect way to give them more practice, while ensuring they got to any important homework problems we did not have time to get through during class time.

      Good luck with your adoption! Year 1 was the hardest as we all adjusted, but it has been worth it! I love the curriculum, I was just struggling with the homework completion. With this new method, I feel like the whole thing is falling into place! It’s magical!

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