Does homework have a negative impact?
In their report ‘The Impact of Parental Involvement’, Parental Support and Family Education on Pupil Achievements and Adjustment: A Literature Review’ (2003) Desforges and Abouchaar note, what parents do with their children at home is much more significant than any other factor open to educational influence. Parental participation is the cornerstone of success and when parents interact with schools and with their children to promote maths then positive things will happen. This is true of any caregiver, or other important adult in a child’s life.
Commonly, maths homework set by the school is one way this is done but this has become emotive and contentious. Maths homework can accelerate progress while giant strides can be made but it can also be fraught with difficulty and can interfere with achievement leading to some backward steps for the child.
The maths report ‘Improving Mathematics in Key Stage 2&3’ recommends that teachers should engage parents to encourage their children to value and develop confidence in maths. However, it also asks us to exercise some caution too especially “when engaging parents directly in pupils’ mathematics learning, for example by helping with homework, as interventions designed to do this have often not been linked to increased attainment”.
A key issue with setting maths homework is that some parents and caregivers naturally want to help but this help can lead to interference and decrease autonomy. There will also be issues regarding how they ‘do maths’ compared to how a school presents the material leading to a conflict in methods. This can be confusing for children and lead to heated differences. Helping parents navigate the maths curriculum is surely one of the most difficult tasks teachers face.