Homework: Helpful or a Hassle?

Dylan Hess, Staff Writer


   After a long day at school, every student loves to come home, have a snack, relax, hang out with friends, and…do homework? Homework has been a universal part of every student’s life since elementary school, and going forward into college. As tedious as it is, maybe it is more worthwhile than most students might think.

   “First of all, I don’t favor the word ‘homework.’ Even the word ‘assignment’ is not exactly right. The better word is practice,” math teacher Michael O’Brien said. “Math takes practice and assignments are that practice. Our dance team has been doing well this year. Does anyone think those dancers became good by sitting around and watching other people dance? Of course not.”

   O’Brien made it clear that to improve at math, you need to practice it yourself, and not just listen to a teacher. This is especially true for math classes, where it is much harder to ‘wing it’ without having a solid understanding of the right equations and concepts. Senior Ethan Field agreed, saying that math class assigned homework the most frequently. Although, that’s not to say that other subjects also assign a lot of homework.

   “Homework gives students an opportunity to work with the material learned in class while overcoming possible setbacks and mistakes,” history teacher Amanda Williams said. “Students can develop a motivation to find ways to overcome these challenges and ultimately learn life lessons that go beyond the classroom.”

   Though homework can take some time to do, many students have figured out ways to work efficiently through their homework assignments and end up with more free time at the end of the day.

   “Honestly, I just tend to get most of my work done at school, and at home, if I even work on it, it’s usually only 20 minutes,” Field said.

  Just a few years ago, the majority of homework was done on paper. Thanks to distance learning, that has changed, which for many students and teachers have seen as a positive; digital assignments allow for increased flexibility of when and where students can do schoolwork.

   “With the advent of distance learning last year, we moved more of our material online. The same has been true for our assignments,” O’Brien said. “So many students have missed school that we have moved assignments, class videos, and other resources online so that students can have access 24/7. One benefit in my classes is that I record one class per day and post these in Canvas. If students missed class or need to review, the videos are available.”

   Williams had a similar point, and also said that online content allows for “more creative ways to work with the material.” Digital assignments also free up space in student backpacks and notebooks, which makes it easier to stay organized. Distance learning has also changed the amount of homework teachers assign.

   “It’s a bit less than most non-Covid years, but a bit more than last year,” O’Brien said. “Here’s the thing: you can’t get good at something without practice. There is a minimal amount of work that students need to complete in order to learn math skills. If you go below that threshold of practice, you won’t master the skills.”

   Obviously, the amount of homework also varies depending on the subject and difficulty level of the class.

   “AP US History covers a lot of historical events that we do not have time to cover entirely in the classroom,” Williams said.  “Also, there are many skills needed to perform well on the AP exam. For these reasons, I feel compelled to assign more homework this year to keep students on track. Other classes have had the same amount of homework as in previous years. I feel that for my particular class, we do a lot in one class period so there is no need to work on anything additional.”

   Regardless of the class, homework is (at the moment) necessary to get a good grade in the class, or to at least pass. Field suggests working through the homework in class helps keep homework from piling up.

   “In my Integrated 3 and Pre-Calculus classes, the difference between those who complete assignments on time and those who don’t is striking,” O’Brien said. “In general, those who do assignments on time earn A’s, B’s and C’s. Those who do not complete assignments on time generally earn D’s & F’s. The correlation is so strong that it is almost one-to-one, meaning there are almost no exceptions.”

      Williams’ classes had similar results, and she also said that “The concepts are reinforced through assignments and doing them in a timely manner results in a better understanding of the content as we work through them in class.” Though homework can be tedious and eat up free time, the general consensus from teachers is that it is worth it to put in that extra effort for your education. 

   “What we often fail to mention is that there is a great deal of satisfaction that comes from working hard and learning,” O’Brien said. “There is a sense of accomplishment and achievement that happens right now. It’s great. However, the greater thing that happens is that as we learn our perspectives change. We begin to see the world differently. When I look at the world I see things that only a small percentage of people see because I have a math background. I mean this literally. I see what others do not. Those who have studied history, art, or literature deeply see the world differently too. Learning changes us and how we view the world.”

   Beyond just homework, O’Brien stressed the importance of learning as a tool to expand your horizons.

   O’Brien, “We can choose to understand new perspectives, even ones that are very different from what we may have been given. Given the sorts of problems the world has right now, wouldn’t it be good for us all to broaden our perspectives, even just a little? Education is one way to do this. It is one reason I have chosen to be a life-long learner.”