Fake Math Homework

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” If it’s just schoolwork done at home, then what makes it more valuable than schoolwork done at school?

So here it is, and don’t expect this one to surface Whack-A-Mole-style like this again for a long time: students in the C-range whose comprehension improved with daily practice but this only raised a larger semantic issue for me: what are we calling “homework?

Frank Mc Court, whom I once saw give a beautiful tribute to Peter Matthiessen at a Paris Review Revel, is engaging and funny.

But after 30 minutes I am only about 16 pages in, and Esmee has finished studying for Earth Science and needs the book. It is now time for me to struggle with Earth Science. “The term synergistic applies to the combined efforts of Tarbuck and Lutgens,” says the biographical note at the beginning.

Others may need thirty takes to get the concept right.

My point is this: if my kids evaluate and graph forty points over a class period, as they did yesterday, why would I send them home with any more?That is the advice of my 13-year-old daughter, Esmee, as I struggle to make sense of a paragraph of notes for an upcoming Earth Science test on minerals.“Minerals have crystal systems which are defined by the # of axis and the length of the axis that intersect the crystal faces.” That’s how the notes start, and they only get murkier after that.So I am relieved when she tells me she doesn’t have much tonight. (Esmee’s algebra class is doing a section on polynomials, a word I haven’t heard in decades.) We also have to read 79 pages of Angela’s Ashes and find “three important and powerful quotes from the section with 1–2 sentence analyses of its [sic] significance.” There is also the Earth Science test tomorrow on minerals. Reading and writing is what I do for a living, but in my middle age, I’ve slowed down.So a good day of reading for me, assuming I like the book and I’m not looking for quotable passages, is between 50 and 100 pages. I rarely talk about this particular paragraph of my personal Manifesto du Education, simply because, unlike assessment reform, for example, this has always felt a bit disgraceful.The issue is more complex than that pat answer and deals with what I perceive to be a common failing even of effective educators.My wife and I have noticed since she started there in February of last year that she has a lot of homework.We moved from Pacific Palisades, California, where Esmee also had a great deal of homework at Paul Revere Charter Middle School in Brentwood.I’m not interested in the debates over teaching to the test or No Child Left Behind.What I am interested in is what my daughter is doing during those nightly hours between 8 o’clock and midnight, when she finally gets to bed.


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