Kids love to write.
In nearly every class, students are expressing their thoughts, feelings, and ideas in writing.
But why is communicating with written word often excluded in the elementary math classroom?
Writing about math encourages creativity, exploration, and communicating one's thoughts and feelings. Students must organize their thinking, use key vocabulary terms and phrases, and communicate mathematically—which leads to deep and meaningful understanding.
And teachers can use students' writing to assess their learning. When you can read exactly what a student is thinking, you can easily pinpoint how they understand a topic and where their strengths and weaknesses are.
So, are you ready to give your students more opportunities to write about what they are learning in math class? Here are five ideas that are sure to get you started:
1.) Start a Daily Math Journal
Since writing about math may be a foreign idea to many of your students, it will take time to get them used to expressing mathematical ideas and concepts in words. By logging in a daily math journal, kids can develop their math-writing-muscles over time. The best way to incorporate a math journal into your lessons is as a warm-up or exit activity where you give kids five minutes to write about a given topic, question, or idea.
2.) I Think, I Notice, I Wonder
Math teachers often struggle to find topics for their kids to write about. And while direct questions and writing prompts are effective, sometimes the best way to encourage creativity and exploration is simply posting an image and asking students to describe what they think, notice, and wonder about what they are seeing.
These kinds of writing experiences are highly engaging and spark deep thinking and mathematical curiosity. Try using them as a warm-up activity to get your kids' brains revved up for the upcoming lesson.
3.) Read and Write
Reading and writing about math is another highly engaging and creative activity.
Suppose that you had your kids start math class by reading this LiveScience article about Whale Sharks. You could then prompt them to describe three ways they could apply what they are learning in math class to learn more about this particular species. For example:
Find the ratio in size between an average Whale Shark and an average Great White.
Use daily averages to find out how many pounds of plankton a Whale Shark eats over its 125-year lifespan.
Apply percentages to estimate the number of Whale Sharks living in both the Pacific and Indian oceans.
4.) Exit Ticket Activities
If you're pressed for time, then incorporating writing into your exit ticket activities is a great strategy. It allows you to formatively and/or summatively assesses your kids' understanding of the day's lesson. The Share Your Thoughts in Writing exit ticket activity below is a great way to assist student thinking and to get them to summarize and describe their learning.
Teaching elementary math topics through storytelling is rapidly growing in popularity.
In fact, September 25th was named National Math Storytelling Day in 2009 and is now celebrated as a day to share fun math-related tales and adventures with kids.
You can engage your students in storytelling by giving them opportunities to create their own math-related narratives. Here is a list of prompts to get you started.
Do you have more ideas for incorporating writing the math classroom? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
By Anthony Persico
Anthony is the content crafter and head educator for YouTube's MashUp Math and an advisor to Amazon Education's 'With Math I Can' Campaign. You can often find me happily developing animated math lessons to share on my YouTube channel . Or spending way too much time at the gym or playing on my phone.