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Maths Homework – Hassle Them or Not?

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Maths Homework – Hassle Them or Not?

One student (yr 11 maths) seems a little lazy with the homework I assign them. I’m not sure whether my approach and attitude when assigning homework is not correct or they are just generally reluctant to do homework. I don’t want to be strict in enforcing homework as I don’t want to seem like a nagging parent or teacher. Is there a subtle way in which I can get the students to feel they need to do their homework regularly?

This is an excellent question and a common challenge for tutors, especially when starting to work with a new student. Here are some important considerations:

  • Reasons: Firstly, you can’t guess why they are not doing their homework – you will need to ask them. It is important to understand why they aren’t doing their work so that you can know what to do about it.

Perhaps they only care about passing maths and not high achievement so the extra homework to them may seem unnecessary. What do they actually want to get out of tutoring? Maybe they are having family problems at home and don’t have time or are too emotionally troubled to focus on homework? Perhaps they do not realise the importance of the work you are setting them and have inaccurate expectations about what it will take to succeed?


  • Relationship: It is important not to come across as a nagging teacher or parent. That’s the whole benefit of tutoring– that they can have a great relationship with their mentor who “gets them”. However, you cannot be too wimpy or passive either. Ultimately you are there to do a job and both you and the student should be mindful of that. Although you are not their “teacher”, you are in a position of some authority. You are the expert and they are in need of your counsel, not the other way around. If they are not going to do your homework then don’t waste time thinking about it and writing it down. Yes, be their friend but be their tutor first. If you know that they will not achieve their goals without the work you are setting then most certainly – nag them! Perhaps even mention the issue to a parent if it comes to that.
  • Your responsibility: As a tutor the best we can really do is understand what they want to achieve, make sure they understand what it will take to get there and tutor them accordingly in the smoothest most effective way possible. Of course, we must also keep parents in the loop. Obviously a good tutor will motivate and inspire a student to succeed but we cannot force them to work.
  • Your attitude: It is possible that your attitude while setting homework is contributing to the problem. While the relationship will be different with each student, generally, setting homework should be a serious matter and you should demonstrate to the student that you expect this work to be done. If you come over and they haven’t done their work don’t wave it off like its no big deal. At the very least treat it seriously and have a chat with them about why they are not doing it.
  • A good way to enforce work is to get the student involved in assigning it. At the end of each lesson plan the students’ homework together. Ask if it’s enough or too little, if they can handle more etc… if they are unreasonable explain to them why this is required and ensure they understand. When the student is involved in setting their own work they will be much more committed to it.