…and it’s all about the homework.
Most high school math teachers assign daily homework. Each teacher may have their own way of recording it, but in general it can comprise anywhere from 5-15% of the student’s grade. The homework is usually checked for completeness, but not graded for accuracy. Understandable when we consider how many classes a teacher has each day, and how many students are in each class. Fortunately, most teachers provide their students with the ability to check their own homework. This can come in the form of answers to odd problems in the back of the textbook, posted answer keys to the homework on the classroom website, or links to step-by-step solutions via textbook websites like calcchat.com or calcview.com.
Unfortunately, few students take advantage of these resources in a consistent way. Countless times I have checked the homework of students who were proud to have completed the entire assignment, only to find that over half of their answers were wrong. This type of performance on a quiz or test would be demoralizing. The most important thing for students and parents to understand is that homework is the place for students to make mistakes without it affecting their grade. But, if they don’t catch these mistakes and make corrections, then these same mistakes will be made on quizzes and tests.
Besides, the mistakes students generally make on their homework are easily correctable. Here’s a list of some of the most common ones I’ve seen:
- Setting up the problem correctly, but failing to execute the final calculations accurately by not writing out all the steps, or rushing to get to the answer.
- Not paying close enough attention to the order of operations, a.k.a. “PEMDAS” (Parentheses, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction).
- Forgetting to distribute the negative sign.
- Having their calculator set in the wrong “mode” – radian vs. degree, function vs. parametric, etc.
- Rusty basic math skills, especially those involving fractions and mixed numbers – adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing them. Here’s a couple links to free worksheets with answers in the back if you’d like to give your teen a little practice before school starts:
I can’t say it enough, homework is for making mistakes, just like practicing the violin or a free shot. If students learn as early as possible to check their work, they will become more and more academically confident all the time. We are not born with confidence. It comes by trying, making mistakes, learning from mistakes, and then moving forward with greater skill. Make this the year to establish good academic habits in your teen! 🤓