Saturday, July 23, 2016

Writing in Math

At TMC I really felt pushed to have my students doing more reflection, which I had already been thinking about.  I want them to have "math journals" where they can reflect on what we're doing in class, their homework, and "I see math" entries.  I didn't go to Anna Blinstein's "Journaling and Writing in Mathematics" session, but maybe I should have.  There were a lot of sessions I wanted to go to, but didn't, so I've committed myself to look over their resources on the wiki.  I wanted to take some notes while looking over Anna's slides, so here they are.  Also here is a link to Anna's presentation.  It's way better than what I have here.

Initial Thoughts
  • What do you value in your class?
Learning. I tell my students "we are here to learn" often. I also value my students. As people. I care about them and their personal growth.
  • How will doing more writing help you achieve this?
I want to have my students keep a math journal so that they can reflect on lessons and share where "I see math"
  • What concerns do you have about doing more writing with students?
I can't figure out if I want them to do it on paper or electronically and I can't figure out if/when I should read it. How I would find time for all of it and how it would be marked.

Reasons to Write in Math Class:
  • metacognition/retention
  • communication
  • fun
  • better assessment
Possible Prompts:
  • Describe the mistake.
  • Summarize today’s lesson in a few sentences.
  • Which of these is correct? Explain how you can tell.
  • What would be a good question someone could ask about this topic?
  • What’s something that’s confusing to you right now?
  • Pick one problem and explain what you did and why.
  • Which homework problem was the hardest for you? Why?
  • Would you use strategy A or B here? Why?
  • What is going well in class for you? What is not working as well?
  • How do you learn best? What can I do as a teacher to help you learn?
  • What are your goals for this semester? How will you reach them?
  • What’s one good thing that happened this week?
  • What is something mathematical about which you want to learn more?
  • Did your performance on the quiz surprise you - why or why not?
Note to Self: Differentiate (to self) whether you want journal for the day to be metacognitive/reflective or an opportunity to assess student learning. Prepare prompts in both categories and place in notebook to use. Have one selected for the lesson, but be willing to change it up.

Ways to get buy-in:
  • share student work (with class, parents, admin, on classroom, twitter, blog, wall)
  • respond to their writing
  • Share purpose
  • Give them interesting problems to write about
  • use during assessments?
  • Give feedback:
    • short is OK
    • coach on how to improve
    • acknowledge progress
    • ask students to reflect on their journaling
    • short and frequent is most important!
Note to Self: If I decide to ask for formal write-ups, there is a structure outlined on the wiki

Assessing Journals:
  • Two sentences: acknowledge something good, suggest improvement
    • more detail
    • clearer explanation
    • connect math/writing
    • better justification
    • more precision
    • more math vocab
    • include examples
    • extension
    • look for connections to other content
  • Scoring:
    • Foundational: student reflection responds to some part of the prompt and generates some insight about self and/or math (this is a 2)
    • Proficient: student reflection engages with the prompt; uses reflection to plan and reach goals (this is a 3)
    • Exemplary: student reflection yields insights, connections, and specific areas of need; student reflects deeply as part of process beyond specific prompt (this is a 4)
  • More scoring rubrics on wiki
Note to self: I could have students "redo" if they don't show foundational. Also, do I really want to score them? How would I connect to standards? SMP?

Thoughts Now:

  • What would you change about your responses?
Still have same concerns
  • Do you have any new ideas or concerns?
Lots of ideas on assessment, buy-in, questions to ask, and ways to give feedback
  • What do you need to do in order to be able to include more writing in your classes?
I need to decide if/how to score, how to have them keep their journal (notebook or electronic), when to check, and some prompts to give. I also need to set up notes to myself about the structure in my notebook.

Where do I go from here?
  • Ask Anna, Carmel, kristen about journaling on paper vs electronically
  • Select some common prompts and organize into my notebook
  • Determine goal frequency of journalling in class (twice a week?)
  • Talk with Nicole about scoring or not (when we go back to school)
  • When lesson planning: select prompt for lesson, timing, and method for increasing student buy-in
If I follow-through with this, you should be hearing more about journaling on this blog. Ideas, suggestions, comments, please leave them below or tweet me (@kathrynfreed). I'd love to continue this conversation, because I still have a long way to go with it.



  1. Thank you for organizing your thoughts! You laid it out out so succinctly, (sp??) that I can start to wrap my head around writing and even consider it! Thanks again.

    1. Thanks Amy! I really just took it all from Anna's TMC slides, so don't give me any credit!