“Prompt #26 Colored Paper and Metal Disks” is an excerpt from Math Journal Task Cards Mega-Bundle: 312 Ways To Play with Math, available as a digital printable activity guide at my bookstore. Read more about my playful math books here.
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 an Explanation Prompt
Math journal explanations avoid the formality that turns so many students away from geometry proofs. These informal “reason-poems” drive at the heart of a student’s understanding. How did they figure this out? Why does their method work? Is the pattern they found real or just a temporary coincidence? How do they know?
When you run out of creative journaling ideas, you can always go back to the basic mathematical question: “Why?”
For older students, challenge them to explain a concept so that a kindergarten student or second grader could understand. That’s more difficult than it sounds, but the attempt forces students to clarify their own ideas about the topic.
Journaling Prompt #26 Colored Paper and Metal Disks
What is money? Could you explain it to an alien from a planet that doesn’t have money?