Writing in math

Like I was saying in another blog-post, I’ve been exploring the different ways and types of writing that could go on in a math classroom. Last year,  I was asked to present on the subject.  

This is a topic I dabbled in when I was in my own classroom, so I was pretty excited to share with my elementary teachers.  

It’s been a question that’s been in everyone’s heads for such a long time.  How do we incorporate writing in math?  I know that it should be done, but I wanted it to have be meaningful.  I wanted it to be authentic.  A student’s writing is one way for us to see inside their heads.  What’s going on in that brain?  How is he/she approaching problems? 

As a parent, I’ve seen my own son come home with those “write to explain” questions at the bottom of his worksheets.  Usually his answers are short and blunt.  Or some of us have seen writing like this…

tumblr_inline_nxemap2Y751t2pr7r_1280Yup…this kid is going places.  I do appreciate the humor in this, however this is not what we are going for.

Some elementary teachers have admitted to me that they usually skip the “explain” questions at the end of the homework.  And let’s admit it…what student completely takes ownership of those questions at the end?  How much thinking/reasoning are teachers seeing out of those questions?  It’s not happening. 

We need to get our students’ buy-in.  We need them to take ownership.  We need them to be engaged in the problems.  We as teachers have to be creative.  As William Zessner said,Writing is a way to work yourself into a subject and make it your own.

So here’s a few ways I’ve engaged students into writing.

  1. Performance tasks/PBL – Performance tasks are a perfect way to engage a student into a problem.  It’s a spring board to have them create their own writing.  This is a 4th grade task that one of my teachers tried out. Stone%20Soup  A teacher can cover at least 3 subjects in one task.
  2. Exit cards.  I have used exit cards to ask questions.  I think of it as an extension of a number talk.  For instance, explain to me that 17 x 28 is greater than 16 x 29.  
  3. Error Analysis.  One question I ask students as closure is “how will you know when you’ve learned this?”  Usually I get answers like “when I get an A on the test.”  I’m never convinced.  I’m looking for the student to give me the answer of “when I can show/teach you the concept.”  I’ve created a template that can change with the concept.  For instance, here’s one on division. Div Err Analysis
  4. Start with the answer...I haven’t used this one yet, but I’ve seen a few versions of it. Let’s say that you start with the answer of 6.  The student has to write a math story to go with it.  I see this especially for 1st and 2nd graders who need practice with their addition and subtraction (and also writing).  

I know I don’t have all the answers.  I’m just starting the exploration.  I would welcome others to leave comments as to how they tackled this topic.  


Until next time,


April Fools Day

Ahhh.  April Fools Day.  It’s one of my favorite days of the year.  Yes, it’s a day that I have grown older by 365 days.  Yes, it’s a day that I notice more grey strands in my curly brunette hair.  And yes, it’s a day that I see a few more wrinkles on my ever aging face.

However, it’s also a day of fun, jokes and shenanigans.  If you know my personality, you would say that April Fools Day is the perfect day for me to be born.  I’m full of energy, always willing to have a laugh, give a smile, and just have fun.  We only have one life to live, so why not make it a positive experience!  But in the spirit of the day I started to recall all the zaniness that I’ve encountered on this majestical day.  And so I have a question….have you ever wondered what’s it’s like to have a birthday of April Fools Day?   Oh…let me begin to tell you.


One would assume that I would be the one to play tricks and pull shenanigans (can you tell I love that word?) all the time, but in actuality I’m fairly tame.   Sure, the threat of pranking my friends and family is always looming but I know when and where to cross that fine line.  What can I say–some people have better senses of humor than others.  And there’s always the balance of how far to push those boundaries.  In pulling a good prank, you want the victim to have a smile or a laugh.  However some people cross that line of propriety and the results are not favorable.   There’s a lot of pressure on the prankster to get it just right.  

The big question I usually get is…am I usually the one playing the tricks or do people play tricks on me?  And the answer is Yes and Yes.  

Usually on April Fools Day, I love to tell my students all my zany stories of all these tricks.  However, since I don’t have my own classroom of students, I’ll regale you with some of these stories.

 Tricks I’ve played on people…

  1. In college, snuck in and dumped a full bucket of cold water on a roommate while she was taking a hot shower.
  2. In college, I’ve “baby powered” my neighbor’s room (put a folded up newspaper filled with powder under the door, and use a hair dryer to spread the powder)
  3. Short-sheeted several beds (if you don’t know what it is—look here for directions)
  4. One of my colleagues had a jar of marbles on her desk.  For days/weeks, I would take 1-2 marbles out (when she wasn’t around) until one day someone heard her exclaiming “I think I’ve lost my marbles.”
  5. One of my masterpieces happened last year.  This was my friend’s car.  Gotta admit that I was a little nervous dealing with an Audi, but I persevered.  Got in a lot steps that day.  And it only took one roll.  

Price of GladWrap – $3.49       Joy of playing a terrific joke – priceless

Tricks played on me….

  1. When I was a kid, I was told once that my birthday wasn’t really on April 1, but on April 2.
  2. When I was a kid, I was told I was adopted.
  3. For my 16th birthday, just before I was leaving the house for a dinner with my friends, someone called pretending to be the restaurant to tell me that the restaurant was flooded with water and rats (?).

My family and I have tons and tons of other stories to tell (my brothers have pulled doozies).  Let’s just say that I come from a family that knows how to have fun and keep the smiles & laughter going.  Never a dull moment.

Now you know a little bit more about me. And this is why I call my blog “The Mind of an April Fool.”


Until next time–keep laughing & keep smiling,