## What's the correct unit for homework?

19

1

Consider the case when a teacher has thirty students in the class. The noun "homework" is uncountable so he cannot say "I have thirty homeworks to grade every week." My question is that if there is any unit of homework so that the sentence "I have thirty (units) of homework to grade every week" can be valid?

Edit:

1. After reading the replies, I think I should make the situation more clear. I myself am a math TA. What our students need to do for homework is usually about ten exercises from the textbook. I feel if I ask another TA how much homework he needs to grade, the usual reply will be like, "I have two sections, fifteen students each, and we have one assignment every week." Since the amount of exercises is usually the same, we don't really care about it. The amount of homework to grade mainly depends on how many students we have. But I always feel this kind of reply to be very indirect. So my precisely question is if there is any way to reply the question "how much homework do you need to grade?" by saying "I need to grade thirty (units) homework every week."
2. Based on what I see from the replies, I have the impression that different countries have different answers for this question. Is this true? I'm on the west coast of the US so the way in which people there answer this question is what I care about the most. But I'm still interested in knowing the difference.

7But, Chris, you'd need to tell us what unit is important. What did you count to reach thirty? Was it questions, exercises, assignments, workbooks? Was it students or classes? Until you tell us, we don't know. – Gary Botnovcan – 2018-08-09T15:21:22.553

## Answers

48

In your example, you could use pieces, as in I have thirty pieces of homework to grade every week.

piece noun [ C ] (THING)
a single object of a particular type:
a piece of furniture/clothing/equipment
a piece of paper (= a whole sheet)
a piece of china (= an object made of china)
a piece of information/advice
(Cambridge Dictionary)

However, that doesn't seem particularly idiomatic to me. You could use assignments, as in homework assignments:

assignment
noun [ C/U ]
us ​ /əˈsɑɪn·mənt/
a particular job or responsibility given to you:
[C] The homework assignment was to read Chapter 2 in our history book.
(Cambridge Dictionary)

However, in my experience, it's more common to use the type of assignment instead of homework. I think the most broad term is assignment, but you could be more specific:
I have 30 ______ to grade every week.

• assignments
• papers
• essays
• worksheets
• modules
• warm-ups
• tests
• quizzes
• etc.

Edit:

I was very briefly a grader (or, "reader") in a related field. I can't remember exactly how I talked about it, but if someone asked me, "How much homework do you need to grade?", I would probably reply

I need to grade thirty [assignments] every week.

You could also say sets (as others have mentioned), or even submissions (more generic). I'm thinking maybe even "papers", but that's usually used with reports or essay-like works.

I don't think I would have responded in the form you supplied, "I need to grade thirty (units) homework every week." But, that's just my personal feeling of it. You can still use pieces, as mentioned earlier. It may or may not sound slightly strange to the listener, but you will be understood.

To my surprise, BrE users are reporting that pieces of homework is idiomatic to them. I did a little Ngram search, and it appears that the phrase is more common in BrE.

I'm from the West Coast (US).

2I always preferred "piece of homework", so +1 – SovereignSun – 2018-08-09T09:19:30.733

4Pieces was the first word I thought of. (brit here) – WendyG – 2018-08-09T10:56:49.540

2I've often heard "homework for 30 students", or "*papers", as in "I have 30 papers to grade this weekend*". – Todd Wilcox – 2018-08-09T13:58:09.503

A single assignment could be given to multiple students, so one assignment could equal 30 pieces of homework to grade. – mbomb007 – 2018-08-09T14:15:43.010

8"Assignment" strikes me as more likely American. I don't think we ever referred to pieces of homework as "assignments" in secondary school here in Britain. Maybe my school was just weird though, it's hard to tell with this sort of thing! – Muzer – 2018-08-09T14:27:38.287

the worst dreams that ever I have are when I hear the chalk scraping about its blackboards, or start upright in bed, with the sharp voice of Professor Flint still ringing in my ears: “Pieces of homework! pieces of homework!” – can-ned_food – 2018-08-10T04:05:07.780

2Pieces of homework sounds perfectly idiomatic to me (from UK) – Ben – 2018-08-10T13:08:57.947

1"Pieces of homework" would be unusual in US English, although I'd understand what you meant. All the other examples sound natural to me. – thumbtackthief – 2018-08-10T19:38:14.987

I'm from US, and use "piece of homework" all the time. – OldBunny2800 – 2018-08-10T22:01:21.520

25

You are given homework assignments:

[Merriam-Webster]

2 b : a specified task or amount of work assigned or undertaken as if assigned by authority • a homework assignment

The students were given a homework assignment.

@Richard The way I see it, this definition is not so precise and clear too! What about: "a piece of work that a student is asked to do" (Quoted from here, definition number 2)

– AmirhoseinRiazi – 2018-08-09T14:14:50.657

5If the teacher were marking 30 assignments, I'd see that as 30 sets of different homework, not 30 submissions for the same assignment. – Lightness Races in Orbit – 2018-08-09T15:16:44.177

Agreed; one assignment to 30 students would produce (up to) 30 submissions to grade. – chepner – 2018-08-09T18:19:43.803

In Toronto, especially in high school, we always got homework assignments. They weren't called anything else. – Jason Bassford – 2018-08-09T20:30:18.067

1Hmm everyone I knew when I TA'd in the US would more than happily use "homeworks". Not sure if they would write since I've never had occasion to need that but in casual speech it seems completely acceptable. I wonder how many would have actually reported it as ungrammatical. – DRF – 2018-08-10T13:45:34.207

@LightnessRacesinOrbit I disagree. An assignment is a task designated to somebody. So if I ask a class of 30 students to each do something, I have assigned 30 tasks, even though they're all the same. – David Richerby – 2018-08-10T16:19:11.693

@DavidRicherby Nope in that scenario the teacher set an assignment not 30 assignments. "The assignment is due in tomorrow" not "twenty identical assignments are due in tomorrow" but this probably differs by location, context, and personal preference which is why I said "I'd see" :) – Lightness Races in Orbit – 2018-08-10T17:01:59.593

@LightnessRacesinOrbit You can hand out twenty books to a group of people. (You don't hand out a single book.) On the other hand, you can also discuss what each of them thought of the book. They read the same book but with the understanding that it wasn't the same instance of the book. Context is extremely important. Both are correct, depending on context. – Jason Bassford – 2018-08-10T17:32:09.857

Former teacher in the USA. "30 assignments to grade" is common, at least in the northeast. – thumbtackthief – 2018-08-10T21:20:30.643

@JasonBassford: "Both are correct, depending on context" Right, that's what I said! And "book"/"assignment" are not the same word... – Lightness Races in Orbit – 2018-08-12T13:30:53.520

7

You pick a different noun that is more flexible yet appropriate.

I have thirty reports to grade. I have thirty assignments to mark.

2Also problem sets or essays. – user3067860 – 2018-08-09T13:29:45.707

5

You're asking about the teacher's workload in evaluating the homework that has been returned.

I think the word 'sets' is what you're looking for.

I have 30 sets of math homework to grade, and I still have 8 sets of geography homework from yesterday that I'm not done with.

set (MW, noun definition 2)

a number of things of the same kind that belong or are used together

2

I suggest you use the word exercise. It's one of the most frequently used words in this meaning(=homework) & it's countable too.

Well, there are other simple ways:

For homework, you're going to finish thirty exercises every week.

In other words:

Do Exercises 3, 4, 5 etc on pages 51, 52, 53 etc for homework.

If you are student you can say:

My science teacher always sets a lot of homework.

The teacher told us to do thirty exercises for homework.

If you are teacher you can also say:

For homework I want you to do thirty exercises.

1But if you set thirty exercises as homework then one 'unit' of homework would be thirty exercises, so 'exercise' isn't the unit for 'the homework received from one pupil'. – Pete Kirkham – 2018-08-09T15:01:57.873

@PeteKirkham All in all, "One exercise" can be a "Piece of homework" or "A part of assignment" . So I definitely disagree with you. – AmirhoseinRiazi – 2018-08-09T15:43:02.813

2Probably an American thing, but "my teacher sets a lot of homework" sounds very weird to me. I would always use the verb "gives." I also agree with @PeteKirkham; to me, "exercise" only refers to a part of an assignment and not the assignment as a whole. – Doorknob – 2018-08-10T14:35:07.857

@Doorknob "Set" seems very normal to me in British English so, yes, this probably is a US/UK thing. – David Richerby – 2018-08-10T16:07:46.283

This is incorrect. If the teacher has set 30 exercises to each of 30 students, then they have 900 exercises to mark but only 30 units of homework. "Exercise" and "homework" are not synonyms: one's homework is the total work one has been set to do at home and that may consist of multiple exercises, as your answer makes clear. – David Richerby – 2018-08-10T16:09:26.123

@DavidRicherby You're right, "Exercise" & "homework" are not synonyms, but we can use the word "Exercise" as an alternative way to pointing out that our "homework" is actually divided into several pieces. – AmirhoseinRiazi – 2018-08-10T16:21:27.627

@AmirhoseinRiazi But the question isn't about that. The question is talking about a teacher who has set homework to 30 students and now has to mark their work. It doesn't matter how many pieces each single student's work is divided into: the question is about expressing "I have to mark Alice's homework and Bob's homework and ... and Zachary's homework". – David Richerby – 2018-08-10T16:24:14.507

By the way, your boldface looks very shouty to me. You probably don't intend that but I'd recommend against using boldface for emphasis unless you really do need very strong emphasis, which should be very rare and not three times in a single sentence. – David Richerby – 2018-08-10T16:25:05.793

@DavidRicherby "Okay, you win, I can't stand to hear one more complaint from you - I'll delete this answer! " No, but joking apart, you're absolutely right and I wasn’t criticizing you, I really meant it for the best. – AmirhoseinRiazi – 2018-08-10T16:50:02.010

2

I'd quantify it by the amount of students whose homework you have to grade.

"I have homework of 30 students to grade this weekend"

2Or, more simply, "30 students' homework". With your phrasing, I think you need the definite article, "I have the homework of 30 students to grade this weekend." – David Richerby – 2018-08-10T16:00:14.440

2

The dictionaries don't seem to have caught up yet but, as somebody who regularly sets and marks homework in a university in the UK, I would quite happily refer to "marking 30 homeworks". A comment on another answer says that this is also used in the US.

So, at least for informal use, I think it's fine to use homework as a countable noun and pluralize it. If you wanted to be more formal, I'd go with my usual cowardly solution of rewording to avoid the problem: "I have to grade 30 students' homework" or "I have to grade homework for 30 students."

1I agree, but interestingly, if I were a student and had a math assignment, a history assignment, and an English assignment, I'd never say "I have three homeworks to do." – thumbtackthief – 2018-08-10T21:21:49.660

0

At MIT, most courses assign homework in "problem sets".

A typical engineering student has to do four problem sets per week: one for each course that he or she is enrolled in.

A typical TA (Teaching Assistant) has to grade dozens of problem sets per week: one for each student in his (or rarely her) recitation section(s).

A typical problem set consists of several problems.

Some courses (especially in Technical Writing and the Humanities) require students to write weekly essays, instead of solve weekly problem sets.

0

'30 sets of homework' perhaps.

But 'I've got 30 homeworks to mark' doesn't sound wrong.