Name: Wendy

Who is asking: Teacher
Level: Middle

Question: I am trying to incorporate more writing into my math curriculum. I am currently using journals and activities which involve written explanations. Any new ideas on how to involve my students more in the writing process in math class??

HI Wendy,

Something that is a challenge but has a big pay-off for me at other levels of teaching, is to ask students to include, at the end of assignments THEIR QUESTIONS and THEIR REFLECTIONS on the math going on (and other math they notice). For some students, learning to ask questions like a mathematician might, to see value in their questions, to write about what they considered and why it did not yet answer their question is a good way to engage in writing.

The difficulty for the teacher is that the responses are individual and the teacher will likely face questions for which the teacher has no quick answers. It may lead to suggesting the student do READING about math (the companion to writing in any case). It will certainly stretch all concerned.

For me (at university) it works best it courses where the student have to do projects - so the reflections/questions often lead to project topics and a different level of engagement.

A related skill to writing is talking - situations in which the students have to convince a partner, a small group, the whole class, of some 'solution'. I recently saw an episode with some math educators in which we were asked to do a multiplication of two two digit numbers in our heads - and explain our methods. There were so many different methods, all of which made sense. It resulted in a great conversation of choices, possibilities, etc. which I could imagine being duplicated in a classroom!

Walter Whiteley
York University

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