The other question concerning the geometry worksheet made me post this question. My son is in 9th grade, his sister in 8th. In their math classes, they have perfectly good textbooks, but homework assigned to them is so rarely from the actual textbook that they actually call it “Textbook Homework”
Instead, it’s usually worksheets that have the same type of problems on them. Worksheets that need to be downloaded from the class website and then printed out and completed.
My question is, what’s with the worksheets? Why not just assign homework from the “Homework Problems” section of the textbook? Anyone else have any experience with this?
The instructor can change the numbers on the worksheet much easier than buying a new textbook. Thus the lessons are the same but the homework answers cannot be copied from year to year by resourceful scholars looking for shortcuts. Also many of my math classes for that age had a drawing where the work was to fill in the missing information. Easier than having it hand copied from the textbook.
Textbooks also tend to be bloated because people always want to buy the textbook that seems to have the most in it–even if 75% isn’t really what the class is about. So if you assign problems, you have to cherry pick the ones that are relevant to the parts you actually teach, so each assignment is a list of questions, which is confusing. You can use a test bank or write your own work sheet that asks them to do exactly what you want them to do.
I can see where tailoring the problems would be beneficial. But it just seems like a lot of extra work for little gain. The problems I’ve seen on the worksheets are the same type as in the textbook. Plus, the textbook has the answers to the odd problems (something I remember from school), so work can be checked. Luckily, the worksheets are all online as well, and I can google the word problems to find the exact sheet and see what the answers are.
As a college prof many years ago I stopped assigning homework out of the texts since the answers could be so easily found on the Internet. Many books have the answers from the teacher’s edition posted online somewhere.
One of the lame excuses for new editions is that they modify the questions in the books. Right, that’ll last about 2 days.
And I couldn’t re-use old assignments thanks to frats keeping collections. (I could find out who was using their frat’s “book” by slightly changing a question and see who gave the right answer to the old question.)
Don’t bother changing the questions; just change the answers.
But the claim that the answer sheets are online is correct. It means that the usual reason to change texts every year–because they change the assignments (or at least their numbering) is now gone and we can go back to allowing the students to buy old used texts. I used to tell students not to bother to copy their answers since it wouldn’t help when they took an exam, but they persisted anyhow.
I once gave a reading course to a student from a text that already had all the solutions to the problems, but told him not to look at them (at least till he had finished). It was obvious to me (who had written the book and the solutions) that his solutions were genuinely his (and sometimes better than mine and he found at least one error in mine). But a student copying answers is just deluding himself.
There’s also the question of quantity. Maybe they’re not doing the textbook problems for homework because they’ve already done them as classwork. The teacher might have decided that that particular class needed more practice than the text could provide, but there are plenty of good worksheets available for free.
But if you’re making the students download them themselves anyway, then you really ought to be giving fully online assignments. Every student can get an assignment with different numbers, so they can’t even copy off of each other, and any student who needs more practice can generate an endless stream of new versions of the problem. And it’s much easier for the teacher to grade, too.
I’ll throw out a couple more WAGs (which is all they are):
Assigning homework from the textbook means that students have to take the textbook home with them. Maybe some students were complaining about having to do this, or not doing it; or books were getting lost.
Worksheets are easier to grade, since every student’s answer to the same problem will appear at the same place on the page.
I tutor kids on a regular, but not daily, basis (which is less exposure than students, teachers, and parents) and its frustrating that they only get worksheets. Most of them don’t get textbooks at all.
For the kids who are doing great, it’s fine. For the ones who aren’t, they have no idea what they were supposed to have learned 3 weeks ago (according to these students, the teachers collect the worksheets and they’re never seen again). So for me, there’s a lot of guessing as to what the students should know or have been introduced to (“Did your teacher mention ‘FOIL’?” “Did you talk about the Greek Empire?” “Did you learn any comma rules? Do you remember hearing about ‘clauses’?” “Have you talked about units of measure?”) With a book, I could at least thumb through quickly and do a better job of guessing whether or not they should know something that is either foundational or helpful for the work they’re trying to do at the moment.
In some cases, there just may not be enough books. For example, if there are three sections of a math class, with 25 kids in each class, they may only have 25-30 math texts that stay in the math teacher’s classroom and the kids just share them. I haven’t run into that with a math class, but I have seen it in some science and social studies classes.
One of the great things in growing up in a large group of sibs is I could use my older sisters notebooks for homework. Same teacher, same book, same lesson plan. I made great grades in maths through highschool. Sad, I don’t know anything about math.
This is what I run into. I only see my kids on the weekend usually, so they bring all their school stuff with them so I can look it over and help, usually with math, sometimes biology.
I never took biology in school ever, so it would be nice to have a textbook to reference what they are learning in class. Nope, just worksheets, and notes that my son may or may not have taken correctly.
Same with math. Sometimes it’s math that I haven’t seen since I was in high school, and without the book, it’s too annoying to find out how to do the problems. Luckily, he has a math book and now doesn’t “forget” to bring it with him. But problems on a worksheet can’t be checked for correctness, so I just have to hope I’m doing it right
I do like the “generate a lot of additional questions” that **Chronos **mentions, that’s pretty good though.
One more WAG: Is the school trying to connect their classes? For example, if they’re studying weather in science class and they’re studying percentages in math, are the problems trying to connect the two? If the temperature rises from 10 degrees to 20 degrees, what is the percentage change?
I have a feeling I might be suffering from “It worked for me, dang-nabbit, why can’t they just do it that way now?” disease, but it’s hard to change when the reasons for change aren’t entirely clear. Thanks to those in this thread that mentioned some.