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Homework: Practice for Students or a Snack for the Dog? Teachers work hard to design mathematics homework that is engaging, challenging, and worthwhile. The assignments provide practice, prepare for upcoming lessons, extend students’ thinking about a subject, and draw on sti dents’ creative work in making connections among mathematical concepts and other subjects. Homework should reinforce what is learned in schoo! and help students become responsible, independent learners, Teachers create assignments that are often accessible to students at many levels. They plan homework that requires the use of the mechanics ot skills of ‘mathematics to solve a problem rather than homework based on practice with- out context. Teachers vary the homework so that students have engaging tasks, requiring a variety of approaches and ways of thinking. “When parents examine their children’s homework assignments, they often find themselves on unfamiliar ground. They may not understand the signifi cance of homework assignments that seek open-ended responses, present problems in a variety of contexts, and require little computation. Often when parents help their children with the mathematics assign- ments, they do itn a fashion that does not support what the mathematics teacher is trying to accomplish in the classroom” (Peressini 1997, pp. 225-27). For exam- ple, instead of leting the child think through the mathematics needed to solve a problem and come up with his or her own solution, parents may show the child how to solve the problem. In turn, the help they give may be counterproductive. Caregivers don’t have to have all of the answers, but 's good to help children develop a voice in their heads that asks questions that guide them in problem solving. Sometimes, “telling” your child how to solve a problem is not as helpful as teaching him or her how to think through unfamiliar problems. Instead, ask these questions: * “Do you understand what the question is asking?” ‘+ “How do you think you might start this problem?" * “Have you seen a problem like this before?” + "Do you have a similar problem in your notes from class that we might look over?” * “Can you show me a simpler problem like this one that might give a clue as to how to begin?” * “As you write on your paper, share out loud for me what you're thinking.” + “Does your answer sound reasonable? How do you know?" From the September 2002 issue of Mathematics “was Middle School