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Courses In College That Has No Math Homework

Is it really possible to completely eliminate homework – or at least to assign it rarely, only when it’s truly needed – even in high school? We keep hearing from educators who say it’s not only possible but preferable to do so.

Some of these folks were influenced by the arguments and data contained in The Homework Myth, while others came to realize on their own that it simply isn’t necessary to make students work a “second shift” after a full day in school.

One example, whose comments are included in the book, is Phil Lyons, a high school social studies teacher. He noticed that homework contributes to a situation where students see learning as just an unpleasant means to an end –“a way to accrue points.” Homework typically consists of tasks that are “time-consuming, dreary, uninspiring and serve only to kill whatever motivation remains in students,” Lyons says. Interestingly, he confesses having assigned a lot of homework at the beginning of his career “as a crutch, to compensate for poor lessons. . . . But as I mastered the material, homework ceased to be necessary.” And so he assigned less and less of it as the years went by. Today he assigns none at all, even to his A.P. classes.

“In addition to reinforcement type worksheets which I do not assign for homework I also do not assign reading to be done at home,” says Lyons. “Instead, I begin each day with an article (1-2 pages tops) that relates to the topics we’re studying. Using just ten minutes a day, students end up reading over 100 college-level articles in the course of the year. Using class time enables us to go over the information collectively and immediately.”

And the result? “Each year my students have performed better on the [A.P.] test….I would feel justified encroaching on students’ free time and I’d be willing to do the grading if I saw tangible returns, but with no quantifiable benefit it makes no sense to impose [homework] on them or me.”

However, Lyons did notice one clear difference after eliminating homework: “Students come in all the time and hand me articles about something we talked about in class or tell me about a news report they saw. When intrigued by a good lesson and given freedom [from homework], they naturally seek out more knowledge.” Academically speaking, then, the absence of homework — even in a high-level high school course — created absolutely no problems.  Intellectually speaking, it has been positively beneficial.

Yet, Lyons observes, the prospect of questioning homework leads some people to react in much the same way that creationists do “when you try to explain evolution to them….Despite all the logical arguments, they refuse to believe less homework can lead to more and better learning.” But he quickly adds that, even in the sorts of communities where high school is regarded mostly as a source of credentials for the purpose of admission to selective colleges, people can be successfully invited to reconsider their assumptions:

I’ve encountered a lot of hostility from parents who think their children are being shortchanged because they came home and said they didn’t get any homework. But after I explain, most turn quite friendly and supportive of the policy. Adults freely admit that they can’t remember anything about the election of 1876 from their high school U.S. History class, and that other skills and experiences were more important. Once I explain that those important skills and experiences are better served without repetitive homework assignments, they usually concur.

Testimony from other teachers has been rolling in since The Homework Myth‘s publication. To wit:

“For the past month of the final term I assigned no outside homework. I teach English, so all reading and writing was done in class. I had to plan more carefully and navigate those times when the quicker readers or writers finished earlier. There are many positives that resulted. The kids were better rested, more interested in what we were doing in class, and the quality of the work they did in class was better. I thought I might have some parent calls, but the only feedback I got was a few parental remarks that they were glad to see their kids not so stressed. [The students’ written] reflections convinced me that homework has a long-term detrimental impact on student learning. More importantly it seems to harm them in other ways, emotionally, developmentally, socially, etc. I regret not having done this earlier in the year. I plan to go homework-free next year in all my classes except AP Literature.”

— Jim Drier, English teacher, Mundelein (IL) High School

“I’ve assigned homework once this semester. That was Geometry. In Algebra, I’m not sure I’ve assigned any… [I believe] students need a certain amount of practice for each new concept. That amount certainly varies by the student, however. [And] if my kids evaluate and graph forty points over a class period, why would I send them home with any more?….The issue for most math teachers, I believe, is one of time management. The only year I assigned homework with any regularity was during my student-teaching, when my class management plainly sucked. By assigning whatever practice we didn’t finish [as] homework, I was transferring the cost of my poor teaching onto my students.” [Mr. Meyer investigated this issue for his Masters thesis and found no statistically significant difference in achievement between students who were and were not assigned homework. Students’ attitudes about learning, and about math, were much lower for those who got homework, however.]

— Dan Meyer, high school math teacher in CA [from his blog]

“I always felt weird about assigning specific books for kids to read. How could you possibly find a book that is at all 34 kids’ reading levels. Not to mention the fact they would all have to be excited about reading the book! . . . [With most homework, students] do what they already did in class, and the ones that get it waste their time doing it again and the ones that didn’t just get discouraged and struggle through it. It particularly would break my heart when parents would tell me. . . how nights would be ruined. How could any teacher not feel bad about that? Then I would correct it and put it in their files and then they would stuff it in their backpacks never to be looked at again. Not to mention the inequity of some kids’ parents being able to help and some not. . . . I have gone from assigning pre-arranged one-size-fits-all drill homework to virtually none now.”

— Richard Coleman, San Diego teacher

“Assigning homework was something I did without really thinking because it was something that had always been done…. Not assigning homework has drastically cut down on the amount of time I spend mindlessly grading student homework and has increased the amount of time I spend preparing for lessons . . . looking for interesting activities and … finding ‘real world’ examples of mathematics…”

— Kate Degner, math teacher, Williamsburg (IA) High School
[from her Master’s thesis]

“I first read The Homework Myth while trying to get my daughter through a middle school that was obsessed with making kids do 2-3 hours of homework every night. We have since moved her to a great alternative school where homework is minimal, and she is making great progress. After reading your book, I thought about how I was teaching my [college] classes — lecture, then assign pages in the text workbook to be turned in at the next class. I realized that what I needed to do was more ‘hands on’ teaching in the classroom. I eliminated most of the homework assignments (except for major projects), and had the students do the exercises in class while I walked around giving help where needed. I told the students that the few assignments I would give are for the purpose of giving me feedback — ‘Are they getting it?’ This has made for a lot less busywork for me and for the students, and has brought me into closer contact with the students and how they are learning.”

— David Moore, music theory teacher, Univ. of Tulsa

“Many kids are burned out on school and learning before they leave 3rd grade due to the increasing amount of homework being demanded of them. Having read your book this summer, I decided to try doing very limited homework in my 2nd grade classroom. What I’ve found is that the kids are less confused in math [as a result]. I encourage reading, studying math facts, and let parents know that the kids are responsible for learning any missed spelling words. (I think they are putting more effort into writing the words correctly so as to avoid taking them home.) My parents are all happy and other 2nd grade teachers are trying it.”

— Carol Tuveson, elementary school teacher, Stratham (NH) Memorial School

We’ve also heard about whole schools that have virtually eliminated homework rather than merely adjusting the amount or tweaking the details of its implementation:

— After Christine Hendricks, the principal of Grant Elementary School in Glenrock, WY, implemented a no-homework policy, a survey of parents revealed that children had more time to play, sleep, read, and eat dinner with their families and spent less time watching TV. Children also had an improved attitude towards going to school and parents found themselves in fewer conflicts with their children. [Source: stophomework.com]

— Banks County Middle School in Homer, GA, a lower-income, rural, public school, has eliminated virtually all homework. Principal Matthew Cooper explained: “First, I want our students to have the opportunity to be kids. If they cannot learn what they need in seven hours, something is wrong. A ‘No Homework’ policy actually results in better classroom instruction. It puts more responsibility on teachers to maximize class time. Second, homework was setting many of our students up for failure. It resulted in lower grades and lower self-esteem. Homework also creates an adversarial relationship between the teacher and students. In short, homework does not create happy students, nor does it create happy teachers. And it definitely does not create successful students.” The abolition of homework, he reports, has had a positive effect even when judged by conventional measures such as grades and the number of students meeting state standards. [Source: personal communication from Matthew Cooper]

— “Oak Knoll Elementary in Menlo Park [California] has mostly banned homework, except reading, occasional projects or catch-up work. Addison Elementary in Palo Alto and the Berryessa School District in San Jose are discussing the issue. Since Bubb Elementary School in Mountain View relaxed its homework regimen, fourth-grader Elyse Fitzsimons has been reading on her own, ‘devouring books,” said her mother, Renée Fitzsimons. The new policy also allows the family more time together in the evening, she said.” [Source:  San Jose Mercury News – February 25, 2007]

(For more examples of teachers who have eliminated homework, and suggested strategies for parents who are concerned about the toll homework is taking on their children, please see the book The Homework Myth and the DVD No Grades + No Homework = Better Learning.)

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General

Can I take a course at HippoCampus for credit?

How do I enroll in a course at HippoCampus?

Are there any fees to take your courses?

How do I make a comment or ask a question?

How do I get individual help with my homework assignment?

What are the preferred texts? Do I need to purchase all the texts that are listed?

Teaching

How can I use HippoCampus in my classroom?

How can I use HippoCampus in my home school?

Can I use the resources you have available for my homeschoolers?

Do you know of any wet lab resources to accompany HippoCampus content?

Is there a script, app, or something that can be used to track student use of HippoCampus?

Can I share my customized HippoCampus content (such as Playlists) with my fellow teachers?

Technical

Can I download the video?

Can I change the size of the video window?

Why won't the Environmental Science animations play?

What if my page scroll bars or "submit" button are not showing?

I can't find closed captioning. Isn't this a violation of 504/508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act?

Content

Where does the content from your site come from?

There is an error in the multimedia presentation. Can you fix it?

How do I report a course errata item?

Why are there answer keys available to the students for the end-of-chapter tests?

Where are the answers to the review questions?

The audio in some videos within the Religion course are problematic. Can you fix it?

Why aren't the lab sections in Environmental Science appearing?

HippoCampus and Advanced Placement (AP)*

How are homeschoolers using HippoCampus for AP? What about DANTE and CLEP?

Can schools order and administer AP Exams without completing the AP Course Audit?

Are the courses at HippoCampus AP approved?

General

Can I take a course at HippoCampus for credit?

We are a non-profit organization and provide the content at our websites for self-improvement only as part of our mission. You cannot get credit for it since we are not a school.

How do I enroll in a course at HippoCampus?

We are not a school, so you cannot enroll in a course, but individuals are welcome to use the materials for free as study aids.

Are there any fees to take your courses?

There is no charge for individual users at HippoCampus.

How do I make a comment or ask a question?

You can email a comment or question directly to Help@HippoCampus.org, or you can click the "Comments and Questions" icon in the Media Window control bar. The icon looks like a small speech bubble.

How do I get individual help with my homework assignment?

While we understand that you may need assistance with your homework, we cannot provide the answers to your problems or individual assistance. We hope you can use our website as a tool to help you learn the subject matter so that you can find the answers.

What are the preferred texts? Do I need to purchase all the texts that are listed?

We correlate our content to a variety of widely used textbooks so that you may choose the books you wish. You do not need to buy any of the books mentioned.

Teaching

How can I use HippoCampus in my classroom?

More than half the use of HippoCampus occurs during classroom hours, when teachers go online to project topic lectures and show simulations launched from the HippoCampus site. Teachers can use the site as is, or can create custom playlists of topics in their custom HippoCampus page by creating a free user account. Just click the Log In link in the top-right corner of any HippoCampus page to get started. Further information can be found in the HippoCampus User's Guide.

How can I use HippoCampus in my home school?

HippoCampus is not a credit-granting organization, and does not monitor, grade, or give transcripts to anyone using the site. However, many home schooling families have used HippoCampus content to supplement or guide their home curriculum, and we welcome them as users.

HippoCampus is made possible by the members of The NROC Project, and many NROC members offer credit for courses that contain HippoCampus content.

Can I use the resources you have available for my homeschoolers?

Yes, although homeschoolers should realize that the content presented is not a complete course. The content is intended to have an instructor to provide supplemental assignments and instruction. Since there is no teacher available through HippoCampus, the parent must take the role of instructor.

Do you know of any wet lab resources to accompany HippoCampus content?

We have done research to identify some very good wet lab resources for virtual schools that could also be used successfully by homeschoolers. Here are a few of the options:

Smart Science, https://www.smartsciencelearning.com/

Smart Science® virtual labs are a complete science learning system with online assessments and reports, delivery of all course activities and student and curriculum tracking for current and prior terms. In 2007 the College Board approved AP science courses that incorporate Smart Science® AP labs as their lab components. Full sets of labs (20-30 labs per course) are offered for a fee.

Hands-On Labs, https://holscience.com/

The science lab kits and products offered by Hands-On Labs, Inc. were specifically designed and selected by practicing distance educators to serve the "At Home" science study markets. These kits are used with web courses, telecommunication courses, home-schooling programs, and all other forms of independent study.

Is there a script, app, or something that can be used to track student use of HippoCampus?

Students are not required to log in to HippoCampus.org, so there is no way to track student use from the public site. However, institutions that are members of the National Repository of Online Courses (NROC) have access to HippoCampus content through their school's learning management system, which can track use, assignments, and grades.

Can I share my customized HippoCampus content (such as Playlists) with my fellow teachers?

No. Our Terms of Use specify that HippoCampus is provided by the Monterey Institute for Technology and Education for personal enrichment and individual instructor use only. The unlicensed use of this content by educational organizations or commercial vendors is prohibited.

Technical

Can I download the video?

Unfortunately, there is no way to download the video from our website. As an individual user, however, you may create a custom HippoCampus page and then link to an individual topic. After you have created your custom page, there will be buttons in the upper right corner that allow you to view the text version (when available), bookmark, or link to the topic.

Can I change the size of the video window?

Yes, in multiple ways. First, there is a "maximize" button beneath the bottom left corner of the Media Window which will widen the screen. There is also a "hide column" button beneath the first column of content in the Browse Topics tab. These can be used simultaneously or independently. For some content, such as that from Khan Academy, a small button in the lower right corner of the media control bar allows the content to be shown full screen. For other content, such as Algebra I--An Open Course, right-clicking the mouse over the video content will open a menu that offers Full Screen as an option.

Why won't the Environmental Science animations play?

This problem occurs if you are using version 7.1.3 of Quicktime® or higher. To fix the problem, go into the QuickTime "Preferences."

What if my page scroll bars or "submit" button are not showing?

Your screen resolution may be set too low. The Algebra course requires that your screen resolution be at 1024x768 or higher. Most of the other content requires a resolution of 600x800 or higher.

I can't find closed captioning. Isn't this a violation of 504/508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act?

Much, but not all, of the content at HippoCampus is closed captioned.


Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to requires Federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to people with disabilities. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. The educational resources provided at HippoCampus.org were not procured by, and are not made available through, a Federal agency, so the law is not applicable to the content at this website.

Content

Where does the content from your site come from?

All the content we provide at HippoCampus is created by other educational institutions and contributed to us to distribute as part of our non-profit mission.

There is an error in the multimedia presentation. Can you fix it?

Due to the complexity of modifying the multimedia content, we cannot always correct errors within the video presentations. There is an Errata icon that appears with any topics in which a known error has been identified. We encourage our users to report any errors they discover so that we can notify everyone of the problem.

There is also an errata sheet available for some courses if you select "Launch a Full Course."

How do I report a course errata item?

Use the "Comments and Questions" feature in the Media Window control bar. The icon looks like a small speech bubble, and allows you to send in a description of the error directly from the relevant piece of media. Or you can send an email to Help@HippoCampus.org.

Please describe the issue as precisely as possible.

If you provide your email address, we will inform you about the correction process, or ask any follow-up question necessary to clarify the report.

Why are there answer keys available to the students for the end-of-chapter tests?

The tests that appear on our website are intended as open tests for self-assessment only. They are not intended to be secure tests since the answers are freely available at several websites.

Where are the answers to the review questions?

There are answer keys available for the chapter tests but not for the review questions. The answer keys for the chapter tests are located as a link right under the chapter test link.

The audio in some videos within the Religion course are problematic. Can you fix it?

This is a problem that was in the original content we received from the course developer. We have no way of fixing this at this time.

Why aren't the lab sections in Environmental Science appearing?

The Environmental Science labs require you to have Java installed on your computer. You can get the latest version at http://www.java.com/en/download/manual.jsp

HippoCampus and Advanced Placement (AP)*

How are homeschoolers using HippoCampus for AP? What about DANTE and CLEP?

We know a lot of homeschoolers use HippoCampus. We are often asked if homeschoolers can study the content at HippoCampus and then just take and pass the AP exam.

HippoCampus courses were designed to address the AP College Board criteria. However, as with any teaching resource, they should not be considered a singular solution, but can be used as a good foundation for an AP teaching curriculum. The courses at HippoCampus have not currently been mapped to the CLEP and DANTE tests.

If you wish to receive college credit for taking an AP course, most colleges will require that the course have been approved by the College Board. Schools wishing to give their students AP credit must go through the AP audit process. The same is true for homeschoolers. The AP Course Ledger section below gives more information about the audit process.

AP Course Ledger

The AP Course Ledger is a comprehensive and public registry of all courses authorized to use the AP label on student transcripts. The Ledger is an annual and culminating product of the AP Course Audit, a process by which college faculty confirm that courses submitted by AP teachers and schools provide students with the essential elements of a college level experience. As an exclusively Web-based registry, the Ledger is published annually in November and updated weekly throughout the academic year to reflect newly authorized courses.

Here is a link to AP Audit information, (and you can find other links on this page to various other resources):

http://www.collegeboard.com/html/apcourseaudit/

Can schools order and administer AP Exams without completing the AP Course Audit?

Yes, the AP Course Audit is only required for schools desiring to:

-- use the "AP" designation on students' transcripts

-- be listed in the ledger of authorized AP courses provided each fall to college and university admissions offices and the public.

Schools that simply offer the AP Exam as an opportunity for their students to earn college credit, without actually labeling the school's courses "AP" on students' transcripts, do not need to participate in the AP Course Audit, and can continue offering AP Exams to their students.

Are the courses at HippoCampus AP approved?

Our AP content is a good resource to help students prepare for AP exams. However, while we provide content resources, we do not have instructors who teach the courses. In order to be authorized by the College Board and put in the AP Course Ledger, an instructor must submit a syllabus for the course. While we do not have instructors who teach our courses, we do have NROC member schools that teach the courses for credit and they have been approved through the AP College Board.

*AP, Advanced Placement and Advanced Placement Program are registered trademarks of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, this content.

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