The Patriot In-Depth: Uncovering the point of homework

Senior Taylor Gerber stays up late, trying to finish his English homework. He’s not writing an essay or completing a vocabulary worksheet. He’s reading an article about math. “It was the most pointless thing ever,” Gerber said. “It didn’t even teach me anything about English.” Besides Gerber, other students believe that some homework assignments are pointless and don’t help them learn.

“I feel that any homework about a topic that has not been discussed in class yet it unhelpful,” senior Lindsey McCumber said. How am I supposed to answer questions about something that I am totally confused about?”

Junior Julia Lee agrees with McCumber. “It’s pointless when I get homework that I don’t understand from class, especially math. If I don’t understand what I’m doing, there’s no point of me trying.”

Some students, like freshman Elizabeth Butz, have had pointless homework assignments in the past. “I remember in middle school I had an assignment where I had to color a map and my teacher told us what to color. It didn’t even help me learn anything and I got points off because I ‘colored in the wrong ocean.’ It was such a waste of time,” Butz said.

In response to the Patriot survey about homework on Nov. 13, 57.0 percent of students find their homework useful in helping them learn or understand more in a class only some of the time. 0.0 percent of students found it useful all of the time.

According to the article “The Truth about Homework” by Alfie Kohn, an expert on human education and human behavior, there is no evidence that higher achievement in school is because of homework. People assume that homework is beneficial because it gives students more time to master a topic or skill. However, this reasoning is not true “because there are enough cases where more time doesn’t lead to better learning.”

Many students believe that teachers give out “busy work” for homework instead of work that will actually benefit them. “Sometimes teachers give out homework because they think they have to, but really it’s a waste of time,” Butz said.

Lee agrees with Butz and believes that busy work takes up time. “It’s definitely busy work if you have to ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’”

Gerber doesn’t believe that teachers give out busy work for homework. “I rarely ever get pointless homework assignments. The only ‘busy work’ I get is when I have a substitute in a certain class,” he said.

In the Patriot survey, one student said, “homework is overrated and it’s just busy work.” German teacher Ashleigh Stall does not like busy work. “It takes up more of my students’ time, and it’s more for me to grade,” Stall said.

Although there are non-helpful homework assignments, many students believe that most homework assignments are helpful. According to the survey, 85 percent of students believe that homework is useful in helping them learn or understand a class better.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Butz believes that study guides are the most helpful homework assignments. “I know I won’t study on my own and these guides make me study and help me know all the information,” she said.

Lee thinks that math is the most beneficial homework for her. “I think math is the most important homework for me. If I don’t have math homework every night, I feel like I didn’t get anything done. I almost feel empty inside without having math homework because I’m so used to having it,” Lee said.

McCumber agrees with Lee and believes that math is helpful because it’s good practice. “I also think reading is beneficial. For example, reading my AP Biology textbook clarifies a lot of information,” she said.

In the survey, one student said, “reading and taking notes for AP Chem is really helpful because for the most part I will already know what we will learn in the next class.”

Besides helping students learn information, homework raises students grades as well.

“If I do badly on a test, homework brings my grade back up,” Gerber said.

Overall, some homework isn’t beneficial to students. However, Stall believes that the best type of homework is the “homework that enhances skills that were taught in class.”

Nicole Arrison is an In-Depth Editor for the Patriot and