Writing to Learn Math II

[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…

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Reading to Learn Math

[Photo by Betsssssy.]

Do you ever take your kids’ math tests? It helps me remember what it is like to be a student. I push myself to work quickly, trying to finish in about 1/3 the allotted time, to mimic the pressure students feel. And whenever I do this, I find myself prone to the same stupid mistakes that students make.

Even teachers are human.

In this case, it was a multi-step word problem, a barrage of information to stumble through. In the middle of it all sat this statement:

…and there were 3/4 as many dragons as gryphons…

My eyes saw the words, but my mind heard it this way:

…and 3/4 of them were dragons…

What do you think — did I get the answer right? Of course not! Every little word in a math problem is important, and misreading even the smallest word can lead a student astray. My mental glitch encompassed several words, and my final tally of mythological creatures was correspondingly screwy.

But here is the more important question: Can you explain the difference between these two statements?

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Writing to Learn Math

2009 Challenge - Day 72: Pencil
Image by ☼zlady via Flickr

Have you considered experimenting with writing in your math class this year? It seems that math journals are a growing fad, and for good reason:

Writing is how we think our way into a subject and make it our own.

William Zinsser
Writing to Learn

Math journal entries can be as simple as class notes, or they can be research projects that take hours of experimentation and pondering. Students may use the journal to store their thoughts as they work several days to solve a challenge problem of the week, or they might jot down quick reflections about what they learned in today’s math class.

Continue reading Writing to Learn Math