Do you want your children to develop the ability to reason creatively and figure out things on their own?
Help kids practice slowing down and taking the time to fully comprehend a math topic or problem-solving situation with these classic tools of learning: See. Wonder. Create.
See: Look carefully at the details of the numbers, shapes, or patterns you see. What are their attributes? How do they relate to each other? Also notice the details of your own mathematical thinking. How do you respond to a tough problem? Which responses are most helpful? Where did you get confused, or what makes you feel discouraged?
Wonder: Ask the journalist’s questions: who, what, where, when, why, and how? Who might need to know about this topic? Where might we see it in the real world? When would things happen this way? What other way might they happen? Why? What if we changed the situation? How might we change it? What would happen then? How might we figure it out?
Create: Create a description, summary, or explanation of what you learned. Make your own related math puzzle, problem, art, poetry, story, game, etc. Or create something totally unrelated, whatever idea may have sparked in your mind.
Math journaling may seem to focus on this third tool, creation. But even with artistic design prompts, we need the first two tools because they lay a solid groundwork to support the child’s imagination.
How To Use a Freewrite Prompt
You can spark creative thought by removing any need to worry about spelling or punctuation rules. During a freewriting session, students should write fast and raw until they reach the end of the page.
If students can’t think of what to write, they might consider how the journalist’s 5W1H questions apply to their prompt: who, what, where, when, why, how? Or they can reword their previous sentence, or look for a way to add extra details. It’s always valuable to rethink and revise our writing to make it better express the ideas in our heads.
If all else fails, students can keep writing anything that comes into their minds, even if it seems to have nothing to do with math. They may be surprised to find mathematical ideas pop up in the most unexpected places.
Freewriting prompts may be reused, especially if you change one or two words to make them new. Most of the questions are general enough to spawn entire books, so there will always be ideas the student didn’t have time to think about before.
Or let students propose their own topics. Make a long list of prompt sentences and cut the paper into strips, then crumple the strips into a jar. When it’s time to write, they can pull out a prompt and let the pencil run with it.
If children have trouble filling a whole page, let them write to a timer instead. Set it for five minutes or however long fits their energy level.
Journaling Prompt #75 The Adventure of Learning
At first, I thought _____. But then I discovered _____. Now I wonder _____.