Don’t do your homework

Imagine you are travelling to a place you have never been before. Suppose also that you have detailed directions for how to get there. Would you just start out toward your destination without reading your directions first? If so, are you just hoping you end up in the right place without making sure you do?

One of the things that my math students do is write down notes during lessons, with specific examples that we have worked through together. These are detailed instructions for how to do the homework. Successful students make sure they are doing everything correctly by using their notes to guide them.

So, the next time you are about to start your homework stop yourself from doing it right away. Instead, read through your notes, thinking about the details and working out each example you come to, on your own. This means that you first check your understanding so you will know you are on the right track with the actual homework.

As I have mentioned before, it is important to be a person of action so that you get things done on time. Doing little things every day compounds into huge achievement down the road. When you are working on getting things done, you leave no time to waste on worrying or being stressed. Having said that, it is important to think first and do second. This effort spent working through your notes means you first think about the details of the lesson. This is how real understanding is achieved, which you then can apply to your homework and when solving future problems.

I can already hear people saying, “You can’t be serious, this will take so much time!” The truth is that when you work the right way, you achieve ownership of concepts and place them in your long-term memory. If instead you just memorize steps, you will place them in your short-term memory so they are soon forgotten. In future you will need to relearn the concepts you should have learned properly the first time.

So, do your future self a favour and spend a few extra minutes working properly today so you can enjoy the benefits of your effort tomorrow. Success is simple, but not easy, because most people do not have the discipline to keep focused on working the right way. In future you will reap exactly in proportion to what you sow today!

A special thanks to Professor Jack Weiner from the University of Guelph, who first shared this strategy of doing homework with me! Thanks for your discussion on the topic of student success, as it has helped a lot in my quest to help as many students as possible.

Are you willing to make a change to the way you have used your notes in the past? Let me know how much time you spend doing this and any benefits you find. Thanks for reading!

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