[Photo by Andy Hay.]
In addition to all the funny Google searches, I get plenty of normal inquiries about math topics. People come here looking for help with fractions, word problems, and math club activities — no surprise, those — but I would never have predicted the popularity of the search topic “writing in math class.”
Last year, I compiled a variety of math journal resources, but I’ve found many more since then, especially for older (high school and college) students. So if you’re looking for new ways to get your math students writing…
Problems with Math Journals
Several people who commented on last year’s article made excellent points. When we plan to implement math journals, we need to consider these warnings:
- mathmom wrote: “For a kid who does not like or is not good at writing, math class may be their one safe refuge… I think that for someone who is more right-brained, visual-spatial, and who doesn’t need or naturally tend to think about math in terms of words, it could be quite torturous and not at all helpful…”
- I had some doubts of my own: “Many of the articles on journaling were slanted toward elementary teachers, which often (unfortunately!) means teachers who are not that comfortable with math themselves. In their hands, does journaling become an excuse to replace math content with ‘How I feel about…’ whatever?”
- Dave Marain wrote: “Journal-writing may not be as highly valued by many secondary educators who feel tremendous pressure to cover the content…”
- And jd2718 agreed: “I manage to work writing in, but not in journal form. I see the value, but I also feel time pressure…”
Go back and read the whole discussion. You will find plenty of advice, encouragement, and practical ideas.
And now, on to the new resources…
Math Journaling in General
Complete List of Teacher Resources
Especially for those teaching a writing-intensive college course, but many of the articles would be helpful for any teacher.
Mathematical Writing Rubric (pdf)
Rate your writing on a scale of 1-4 in five areas.
Power Writing in Math Class (pdf)
A handout about paragraph construction: The writer gradually adds details to turn a bare-bones paragraph into a decent explanation.
Scaffolding for the Math Writing (and Talking) Process (pdf)
Sample questions for the student problem-solver, to help them figure out an answer and explain it to others.
Talking, Writing, and Mathematical Thinking
Click the “View a Sample Chapter/Article” link to download the first chapter, which discusses how students’ writing can lead to deeper learning.
Writing in Mathematics: Common Objections & FAQs
“Anytime a teacher decides to try something new, s/he is likely to have concerns. Writing in math is no exception…”
Writing Prompts for Math Teachers
Compare and analyze “Math Problems of the Week” from Out In Left Field, paying special attention to the “Extra Credit” questions. How can studying these examples help you improve your own math teaching? [Hat tip: Joanne Jacobs.]
Writing to Develop Understanding
“[An] iterative approach that includes initial writing, supportive feedback, and revision is where significant improvement in problem solving takes place.” Several articles about the Math Forum Problems of the Week program.
How to Get Elementary Students Writing About Math
Aunty Math: Math Challenges for K-5 Learners
Story problem challenges, tips on problem solving, and advice for the parent or teacher. Students can write up and submit their answers.
Math Cats: Winners of Past Math Writing Contests
Sample essays on assorted topics by elementary and middle school students.
Math out loud!
Talking through a math problem first helps students write about the solution.
Links to math poetry by elementary students, to inspire creativity in your kids.
Journal Ideas for Older Students
High School Math Page
Monthly math challenges: Write and submit your solutions.
How to Write a Solution
“You’ve figured out the solution to the problem — fantastic! But you’re not finished. Whether you are writing solutions for a competition, a journal, a message board, or just to show off for your friends, you must master the art of communicating your solution clearly.” From the AoPS articles page.
Problem Solving Island
A wide variety of puzzles, from Thinking Mathematically and other sources, plus problem solving tips and sample student journal entries. Based on Problem Solving and Computing, which can serve as a self-study course.
USA Mathematical Talent Search (USAMTS)
“As opposed to most mathematics competitions, the USAMTS allows students a full month to work out their solutions. Carefully written justifications are required for each problem.”
Writing Assignments in Calculus
Assignments and sample essays for Calculus I-III, by the author of “How to Grade 300 Mathematical Essays and Survive to tell the Tale.” See also: A Guide to Writing in Mathematics Classes, and Assessing Expository Mathematics.
Essays and Research Papers
Writing for a Math Class
Tips and sample assignments for math teachers, and advice for high school or college students writing essays — includes formatting, how to handle references, and the “Fumblerules of Grammar.”
The general rules of good writing apply to writing about math. See also the many pdf handouts from assorted college professors:
- A Grading Guide
- A Guide to Writing Mathematics
- A Mathematical Writing Checklist
- Common Word Errors in Writing Mathematics
- Tips on Writing in Mathematics
- Writing math in paragraph style
A Hoard of Resources
For more great links on learning and teaching math:
Claim your two free learning guide booklets, and be one of the first to hear about new books, revisions, and sales or other promotions.