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Should You Grade Homework in Your Math Class?

Should you grade homework in your math class?

Spoiler: I'm not going to answer the question.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.

First and foremost, in this blog post, I am considering only the grading policy - not assigning homework. Homework should be assigned often, whether it is graded or not.  I also recognize that the word “homework” has some negative connotations, and as a result, some teachers use other terms such as “practice, ” "independent work," or “check your understanding,” as popularized by Peter Liljedahl’s book Building Thinking Classrooms.


Have you ever asked yourself these questions:

  • Should I grade homework?
  • If I don't grade homework, what will motivate students to practice the skills taught?
  • If I do grade homework, how do I prevent students from cheating?
  • If I don’t grade homework, will the students’ grades be lower due to fewer grades in the gradebook?
  • If I do grade homework, how much should it weigh?
  • If I do grade homework, should I check it for accuracy or completion?


These are questions that every teacher has asked themselves.  Grading homework is the bane of most math teachers' existence. I have been a teacher for over two decades, and in that time, I have tried several ways to deal with homework:

  • don’t grade it
  • collect it and grade it twice a month
  • check it every day
  • grade it whenever I feel like it

Each policy I have tried has its advantages and disadvantages.


In this post, I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of grading homework and give some ideas on handling homework in your math classes.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Let's consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of grading homework and of NOT grading homework.




Grading HW

  • lots of grades in the gradebook, which means there is a lot of data to share with parents and admin
  • motivated students will do the homework and, therefore, will have more success in class
  • keeps students accountable for keeping up with the material

  • if the homework is done on paper, and it takes time for the teacher to grade it
  • it takes time to put the grades in the gradebook
  • it takes time to handle absent students.
  • students are more likely to cheat on homework just to get the grade

Not grading HW

  • saves the teacher time from having to grade the homework
  • saves the teacher time from having to chase after students who had been absent

  • difficult to motivate students to do it (i.e., there is no carrot and no stick)
  • parents complain (“My child has no incentive to do the homework”)
  • not as many grades in the gradebook, and therefore, summative assessments weigh more


Decades ago, before people carried tiny computers in their pockets, teachers assigned and graded homework. It was expected that students would do their homework, and teachers could always claim the students’ grades would suffer if they didn’t do their homework.  That worked for some students, but not all. 

Some other issues to consider

A motivated student who needs help understanding the material may do an entire homework assignment incorrectly and learn the material wrong. 

Teachers often want students to check their answers when doing homework, so they assign odd problems whose answers are typically in the back of the book. Some students will take advantage of the answers being provided and simply copy the answers just to get a grade.

Some teachers intentionally do not provide answers to homework problems to prevent students from copying the answer key; this is an issue for honest and motivated students who cannot determine if they are successful on the homework.

With today's technology, it is easy for students to find the answers to their homework; think websites like (now part of Quizlet) and and smartphone apps like PhotoMath and Mathway.

As a teacher, it can feel like a constant battle to motivate students to do math outside of class and to prevent them from cheating.


There is no perfect homework policy that will satisfy everyone’s needs. You, as the teacher, must consider several factors when establishing your homework policy:

  • Does the district/school have a homework policy?
  • Is your class remedial, honors, Advanced Placement, or dual credit?
  • What is the culture of the students at your school? Are the students high achieving? Is it a Title I school?
  • What is the culture of the teachers in the department? Is there a department policy regarding homework?


Some possible solutions

If you must grade homework, it’s best if it weighs only 5% in the gradebook.  This means that students are still incentivized to do the homework, and parents understand that homework affects the student’s grade. Still, if a student does zero homework in your class and does well on all assessments, he will not fail the class – nor will he earn a perfect score.

If you must make homework weigh 10% or more, then another way to look at homework is as a curve. Suppose you never curve your test grades and do not offer test corrections or retakes, but you grade homework for completion. In that case, having a 100% homework average will somewhat offset any low assessment averages.

If you are not planning to grade homework, finding other ways to check students’ understanding is important. Some ideas:

  • Offer retakes or corrections on major assessments. Since many students won’t do homework if it’s not graded, you give them a chance to correct their errors by offering retakes or corrections.  You can put conditions on your retakes or corrections, such as students can only retake three times per semester, or the corrections allow the student to earn back half of the points they missed.
  • Give students “homework checks” where at the end of X days, students copy down 5 problems from the previous week’s homework assignments. (this could be graded for completion or for accuracy).
  • Give students a “homework quiz” where every day (or most days), the students must answer 3-5 questions similar to the previous night’s homework; students may use their homework to help them answer the questions. (Best to do this *after* you've gone over questions from the previous night's homework.) This is graded for accuracy.  I did this successfully for a few years when I taught at a school with 90-minute blocks.


Check out my blog post for other formative assessment ideas:

What teachers are saying

I asked the members of my Facebook group to give me their thoughts on grading homework. Here are some of the responses:

“I try to formatively assess them in class as much as possible because I can’t rely solely on how they did on homework since many students use the apps (photomath, symbolab, etc.) to complete their homework.” - Lupha

“Photomath does it for them. I don’t count any work for accuracy that isn’t done in front of me.” – Fran

“I don’t personally believe there is a benefit to required homework in non-honors/AP/Dual Credit courses.” - Felicia

“I think assigning grades to the learning process is inefficient. It brings grades down because they will make mistakes. It is not an accurate assessment of overall learning. It is mainly used to put emphasis on getting the work done.” Joseph D

“I have started assigning as much digital homework as I can. I like escape rooms because they have to enter the answer. They can still cheat, but it’s harder. If I don’t give some kind of grade, they won’t do it.” - Denise

“I grade for accuracy with a mix of digital assignments (self-graded) and hard copy. I find that if I grade for accuracy, students will give a little more effort, which helps me have a good idea of where they are. I always give 2 days to complete an assignment (which cuts down on copying) and leave some time at the end of each class for students to work or ask questions. I also allow for a few errors to still receive full credit.” Vickie G


There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether a high school math teacher should grade homework. It ultimately depends on the individual teacher's teaching philosophy and goals. Some may grade homework to provide students with regular feedback and more grades in the gradebook, while others may choose not to grade homework to save time and find more creative ways to assess student understanding.