We don't need no stinkin' homework!

What are our students saying when they don't do practice exercises outside of school? This isn't a revolutionary thought. I'm just a slow learner. Last week I finally had enough of seeing too many empty desks when they're supposed to get out their Home Jams (homework) after our daily warm-up. I assign about 3-4 questions nightly Monday through Thursday. They're not worth any points because of the Standards Based Grading model I've adopted this year. I use Dropbox to sync all my home jams so students have access at home and I don't need to make photocopies or rely on students using a workbook or textbook. I don't collect them. I don't keep track of complete or incomplete home jams. Furthermore, chances are pretty good I will spend the first 5-8 minutes of class having students review the previous night's home jams as a group on their giant whiteboards. My school is in an affluent area and every family has internet access so why do I still see a strong majority of empty desks? I'm not the only one who is absorbing this pain and bafflement. Chris Robinson, Hedge, and Fawn Nguyen (my trusty cohorts) jumped in on this conversation/quest.

Let's find some scapegoats: laziness, apathy, age, adolescence, immaturity, puberty, hormones, SBG, points (or lack thereof), Gangnam style, etc.
Are these really worth my blame and energy? Should I be looking to point fingers, because I'll run out of fingers if that's the attitude I take. There seems to be a more productive use of my time and energy. I like Chris' idea of designing meaningful tasks for students outside of class, but right now I battle the clock with trying to design meaningful tasks for students inside of class. Therefore, should I be associating my home jams with incentives? Let's ask our kids what they think first before we rack our brains out. Here are the two questions we asked our kids today:
1. Briefly explain what reasons cause you to regularly complete or regularly NOT complete the homework assignments.
2.What incentives would motivate you to complete more homework assignments?
The results.

Reasons for NOT doing home jams:
I forget: 17
Online hassle: 12
Not worth points: 10
I don't need the practice: 1
I have other homework: 9

Reasons for doing home jams:
Master/practice skills: 18
I don't understand: 3
Prepare for assessments: 10
My parent makes me: 3

I didn't enjoy homework as a student and still don't (BTSA). I don't think students should be doing hours of homework. When my children get older, I hope they don't have hours of homework because I believe it would rob them from family time or time simply being a kid.

As for incentives, students suggested the following:
Make them worth points [that's not happening].
Make them fun [curious what that means].
Give candy [yup, all I need to do is encourage tooth decay, obesity, or diabetes].
Extra Credit [really? Again, that's not happening].
Put them on paper [I'm listening].
Bring in food [that co$ts money, y'know].
Play music [yes, I considered that and I like].
Redeem points for class prizes [who's paying for the prizes?].
Work it into Math B-ball [I considered that too and I like].

So now what? Enter my thought process and your input here. I'm open to the incentive idea. Could there be something for the group (since my students sit in groups) who completes their home jams all week? Their group DJ's music. They get comfy chairs to sit in during class. They get extra points when we play Math B-ball. They wash my car. Oh wait, that last one seems out of place. I'm going to sleep on this.

My parting thoughts go like this. It eats at me that learning just isn't more intrinsic, valued, and supported at home as much as I'd like it to be. Could that be another job for some caped homework crusader we all dream about? Incentives are cool, but is that just trickery? Am I tricking kids into practicing math? Once again, I think I'm asking more questions than necessarily providing answers. I'm not going to rack my brain out here. I'm not looking for a permanent and magical solution. It would be great to see students participate more and value their learning by practicing math. Is this asking too much of my 8th graders?