#mathschat is a weekly chance (8pm, every Wednesday) for anyone interested in maths education to talk about the big issues for our subject and what we are doing about them. On Wednesday 7 September, we talked ‘homework’.

Generally, I find that there is a degree of harmony and similarity from one maths department to another. They look similar, and do similar sorts of things. They set similar activities in class and – with a little fine tuning about the order, the way the tables are arranged or the kit they have access to – they sound pretty much the same.

During last week’s #mathschat, we talked about homework and I was struck by just how different the homework systems and processes are. Different amounts of time and great differences in what, how and when you set and receive it back.

I thought I’d do a bit of pre-#mathschat homework my self… thanks to the 200+ who helped with this.

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A number of key questions emerged from this week’s #mathschat.

Firstly, what is the point in homework and is it worth setting at all? @EmathsUK advocated that your time is better spent planning great lessons and getting to know your students.

And @MrBenWard (who I saw discussing this at the last MathsConf) provided this summary: at his school, they provide two centrally made short tasks each week, and then teachers add their own class specific tasks. This year they are rolling out shorter homework tasks each lesson.

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If you think that there should be homework, then what sort should of homework should it be?

I think that homework should do one or more of three things. If the only reason to do homework is to show that it has been done then don’t do it.

1. You can set homework in the form of prep work.  

@PardoeMary sent this extract:CrxnNFRWcAAJcP9.jpg

@Mrbeeteach uses @seesaw for homework and as lesson starters and finishers.
@cydwood sets pre-learning homework once a month and @lucypcat sets four literacy focused homework tasks each year across the department.

2. It can reinforce previous work, hunt out misconceptions and help identify targets.

@berrydoneit, @edonions and @MrMattock use homework booklets. Mr Mattock has 20 short questions and exam questions in printed homework books (see  for a free copy). @MathsJem has her ‘pret homeworks‘ and @mrlyonsmaths collection, @Hegartymaths and @Corbettmaths were all highly recommended.

3. Help teachers to get to know their pupils better and to find out how better to teach them.

@DJUdall made a Bristol-based maths hunt for his year 7s – take a look at . The unstoppable @justmaths offered this diy homework example from a flotilla on her site.

@MissCharles2013 provided loads of ideas like this ‘maths Instagram’, where pupils had been set open-ended maths/literacy homework that gave her a real insight into the pupils and their preferences.

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There are so many different approaches to what we ask pupils to do outside of the lessons, and so many different attitudes from staff and schools as to what they should be doing. I have taken many of my homework ideas from the #mathschat and will certainly be trying something different next term. Thank you.