Using Writing to Make Sense of Math

My first two years of teaching went ok.  I was learning the ropes of running a classroom and honestly, just trying to survive.  I didn't have my students write too much, because "Hey, I teach Math."  The summer after my second year of teaching I took an intense master's class about math pedagogy...homework included.  I noticed something that the professor always had us do on our homework, and that was to explain our reasoning.  I suddenly had as much writing on my homework as I did actual math.  I quickly learned the value of writing in a math classroom.  To be able to actually explain in words how to do the math, takes the math to a deeper level.  Students have to actually think about the why instead of just passing through meaningless algorithms.  Also, as a teacher, have you ever tried grading a student's work, and you are just not quite sure if they understand the concept?  Having students write their thinking can take your math in your classroom to a deeper level, and seriously, grading papers becomes an easier task.  No more second guessing if the student really understands or not.  If they can accurately explain their reasoning you know that they really understand the concept.  

There are a few ways you can have your students write in the math classroom.  One strategy is in a notebook.

You can give writing prompts on the board, a classroom screen, or on task cards and have the students write in their notebooks.  One suggestion that I enforced in my classroom was that they had to write in complete sentences.  I also put a minimum of three sentences.  Many students went beyond three sentences, but I learned I needed a minimum for some students in my classroom.  Also, another strategy I often incorporated was to have them include an example of what they were explaining.

You can also had out slips of paper and use them as exit slips. 

This is a great way to see how much your students understood the lesson.  Hand out the slips of paper with the writing prompt and have them complete the writing and hand it to you as you walk out the door.  Also, as a side note, if students know they have to complete these to leave class, they will be very engaged in the lesson ;). 

You can also use these slips of paper as openers.  Hand them to students as they walk in the classroom, and collect them when they are complete.  This also helps students not be tardy, because they have an assignment write when class begins.

Writing in my math classroom, seriously took my class to a new level.  If you have not yet tried writing, I highly suggest you do.  

If you want 50 prompts for your 7th grade or 8th grade math classrooms, or the product in the photos you can click on the links below.



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