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,

Kristen

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