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math writing activities for middle school

Are You Using This Genius Strategy for Math Writing?

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Are You Using This Genius Strategy for Math Writing?

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Writing about math helps kids to organize their thinking, use key vocabulary, and communicate mathematically—which leads to deep and meaningful understanding.

Over the past few years, math teachers are incorporating more writing activities into their lesson plans—a trend that is being driven by the use of highly engaging think-notice-wonder writing prompts that spark deep mathematical discussion and are highly effective as warm-up or cool-down activities. 

This strategy has recently been endorsed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics:

By asking What do you notice? What do you wonder? we give students opportunities to see problems in big-picture ways, and discover multiple strategies for tackling a problem. Self-confidence, reflective skills, and engagement soar, and students discover that the goal is not to be "over and done," but to realize the many different ways to approach problems.

How does it work?

Math teachers often struggle to find topics for their kids to write about. 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.

The best way to use think-notice-wonder activities is to choose an image every day and project it as large as you can at the front of your classroom.

Then, have students write 3 sentences about the image starting with:

      •     I think…

      •     I notice…

      •     I wonder…

✔  You may want to have students share their entries in a daily math journal. This practice will get them used to writing about mathematics regularly.

✔  Try not to give too many prompts. You’ll be surprised by how creative and detailed student responses will become over time!

✔  Try to choose images that work with the day’s topic/theme

What would think-notice-wonder look like in YOUR classroom?

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Imagine an unusual day where your kids enter class expecting a normal warm-up practice problem but are caught by surprise.

They see the above image of a drone delivering a pizza displayed on the board along with a writing prompt that calls for them to complete the statements I think..., I notice..., and I wonder...

What kind of creative thoughts and ideas would they have?

How much weight can the drone carry? How many pizzas can it hold at once?

How would thinking about this image activate their prior knowledge and spark their curiosity?

What are the dimensions of the largest and smallest pizza box it can hold? Does it have to be square?

What kind of anticipation would it build for an upcoming lesson or activity?

Does the drone use GPS coordinates to get from point to point?

Why Think-Notice-Wonder?

Engaging in think-notice-wonder writing activities at the start of a math class is a great way to ignite student thinking, spark creativity, and build anticipation.

Even if students are not directly engaged in mathematical problem-solving, their curiosity and interest will carry on throughout the day’s lesson.

Be mindful that your kids will need some time to get used to these kinds of activities, but after a week or so, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the spike in engagement, boost in student enthusiasm and high quality of responses!

Are you ready to try it with your kids?

Here are a few more sample graphics for you to try in your classroom:

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Want more? Download 101 Daily Think-Notice-Wonder Writing Prompts for Engaging Your Kids

You can now share 101 Daily Think-Notice-Wonder Writing Prompts with your kids with our PDF workbook!

 
 

Do you have experience using think-notice-wonder activities with your math students? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section below!

(Never miss a Mashup Math blog--click here to get our weekly newsletter!)

By Anthony Persico

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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.

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5 Ideas for Writing in the Elementary Math Classroom

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5 Ideas for Writing in the Elementary Math Classroom

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.

See Also: Get your 101 Think-Notice-Wonder Writing Prompts for Math Students PDF eBook

 
 


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.

 
You can wrap-up any lesson by having kids complete each statement in writing.

You can wrap-up any lesson by having kids complete each statement in writing.

 

Source: www.writeaboutapp.com

Source: www.writeaboutapp.com

5.) Storytelling

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!

(Never miss a Mashup Math blog--click here to get our weekly newsletter!)

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.

 
 

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