Saturday, September 29, 2012

Writing in Math

One of the reasons I opted to be an elementary teacher instead of a middle school or high school teacher is because I love teaching and learning about everything. I couldn't commit to just one subject. My passions change from one year to the next, and this year, I'm very passionate about teaching math.

This is the first year we're working with the Common Core in my district, and it has been a fun challenge to get to know all the new standards. It has been a big transition for my students, however. Many of them seem to be used to finding answers and being done with problems -- not persevering through challenges, representing their thinking in multiple ways, or explaining their thinking. As a result, the first 6 weeks were tough for some of my students.

I saw this quote in my math endorsement class this week, and it really struck me as exactly what my students needed to hear. We've been doing a lot of work on problem solving lately, and some of my darlings are all too willing to give up if they don't immediately know the answer to a problem. We had a great class discussion about what this quote means, and how it applies to the work we've doing.

We've also been talking about the Standards for Mathematical Practice lately, and connecting those to our process work in class -- especially when we write about math. The SMP's are pretty abstract for fourth graders, so I tried breaking them down into questions for students. For example, when we deal with the first standard to "Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them," we use these prompts:

Breaking it down into questions makes it a lot easier for students to know what they need to do to apply that standard to their work, and it has really facilitated our conversations. I've made posters for each of the eight Standards for Mathematical Practice, and I often see students refer to them when they're working on their problem solving and explanations.

Another thing that I've done to help with the SMP's is share student work in class discussion. On Thursday, we worked on a complicated story problem involving multiple factors of a number. Students had to solve the problem and write their explanation on a sheet of white paper. I covered up the names of the students, and displayed 5 or 6 with a document camera. Students read the explanations and were asked to name one thing the mathematician did well and one thing that could be done better. I was really impressed by the suggestions that students were giving! They were commenting about the efficacy of different number models, the organization and labeling of work, the thoroughness of the approach, and the need to have both numbers and words in a good explanation. It was some powerful feedback, and I'm excited to see where we'll go with this next. I can tell my students' confidence with math is increasing, and I really think they're becoming much more competent in their writing about math. Next week, I'll be giving them more writing prompts in math to include in their math journals, so we'll have to see how that goes.

To get your own freebie copy of the math quote poster, click here.  My Standards for Mathematical Practice Posters are available in my TpT store, or by clicking on the image below. They're on sale this weekend for $2.25.

Are you teaching Common Core math in your classroom? What challenges, if any, have you been facing this year? I'd love to hear about it in the comment section!

Have a great weekend!


  1. It was also stated to be a good thing to examine with some ease and probability and we in this regard have almost gone through even better prospects.

  2. It was stated to be a difficult thing for the students in some earlier parts but now we have seen students have almost shown their interest to learn with some effective ideas.


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