This week’s collection is a digression from the typical MMM format. The focus of everything within this post is about *communication*. Providing students with the opportunity to hear and see others communicate mathematics ideas, and providing them with the opportunity to communicate mathematics ideas themselves, is the first of the seven processes in our curriculum. Communication can involve the other processes (connections, mental mathematics and estimation, problem solving, reasoning, technology, visualization), and one technique to scaffold students in developing their communication skills is through journaling.
This collection provides ideas and examples for mathematics journals in the classroom. Enjoy!
Math Journal Set-Up:
Here is a sample setup for a journal focused on problem solving. Deciding what the focus of your students’ math journal will be is an important first step…and problem solving is one possibility of many. (The example blog post is from a K teacher, but it has good ideas on journal expectations applicable to any grade level.)
Sample Journal Prompts:
1. Sentence Completion
E.g. A triangle is equilateral when…. Gives students a chance to solidify concepts.
2. Process Description
E.g. Explain how you would solve this problem… Gives students a chance to realize importance of multiple ways of answering, importance of process not just a final answer
3. Word Bank or Glossary of Terms
E.g. Have students create their own math dictionary, with words and picture representations.
4. Game Analysis
E.g. Have students play any of the games from the collection on Axis, then journal about strategies to win the games.
Journaling doesn’t have to be for marks. Journaling can be focused on formative assessment and for informal teacher feedback. Work with students to create a rubric. Discuss how the journal should look as well as the mathematical correctness of it (emphasizing that this includes making errors and being able to explain errors by the end of term/year). Typically, through conversation, students come up with categories like neatness, visuals/graphs, writing, mathematical correctness. I’ve emphasized the following phrase with my own students:
“Mistakes are expected. Mistakes are respected. Mistakes are inspected.”
Thus, making a mistake in a journal is good. One line used to cross it out neatly, or circling the mistake, plus a follow-up journal entry to inspect/correct the mistake shows growth and learning.
Math Journals Ideas: (links are a collection of some of my favourites)
Snowball Fight: This describes a concept, snowball fight, but has an example from grade 7. I’ve used it with other things like area and perimeter…I’ve also used it with premade snowballs I’ve written showing errors or typical errors from a test.
Global Family Food Purchases for One Week: Here’s an example of what you can do with pictures…I’ve used it with a corresponding journal entry that leads students to search local flyers for some of the food items in a chosen picture to determine total cost in Manitoba dollars (since the images are old). This is a great way to solidify money concepts plus decimals and computation skills.
Math Book Example “Spaghetti and Meatballs for All”: I’ve used the book in this post like the blogger did, exploring perimeter and area. Got the students to do journal entries on it. Similar concept for many books that have math in them….one site that lists math books by categories can be found here.
Poster Problems/Math Stations: This is a great collection of premade posters, with one math problem per poster. The NRich Maths site has these posters searchable by math topic and level as well. Use them as stations in guided math, and/or as journal entries after groups or individual students have explored the questions.
Math in the News slides: These slides are great for discussions, groups, and follow-up journaling. My next step with my own students as a follow-up activity was looking at current headlines and having students pick something math related from the news to analyze and journal about.
Cootie Catchers foldable: Some students really like cootie catchers or fortune tellers. I’ve used this one for mean, median, and mode. Concrete foldables like this really helped my struggling learners, and were good visual cues for students’ memory during tests to cue their thinking.
The Importance of Communication in Mathematics:
What follows is a sample paragraph you could use to send home to parents before introducing journaling with your students. Alternatively, this can become a highlight in a school newsletter or email highlighting communication as a key skill in all content areas.
“Students must be able to communicate mathematical ideas in a variety of ways and contexts. Communication is important in clarifying, reinforcing, and modifying ideas, attitudes, and beliefs about mathematics. Students also need to communicate their learning using mathematical terminology.” (Manitoba Conceptual Framework for K-9 Mathematics 2013, p.11).
During the course of students’ experiences in mathematics classes, the development of students’ mathematical communication becomes more precise and sophisticated as they progress through the grades. Whole class discussion, small group activities, and individual instruction and assignments encourage all students to listen, talk, and write about mathematics. The use of mathematical language helps students to express themselves precisely and coherently to others. Journaling is one venue for students to hone their mathematical communication skills in an active, focused, and purposeful way.