When we think about curriculum we focus on four main subjects. Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, and Math are individual topics that can be integrated within each other. Each subject can be thought of as lessons that tells a story. In Language Arts we tell the stories of people through literature and help students relate to their own lives. In Science we explore the stories about nature, our planet, and the human body. In Social Studies, we tell the stories of our past events and how we can learn from the lessons that came before us. Stories are easily embedded into those subjects which allows more opportunity for writing. Math concepts are more analytical and are not often thought to tell a story.
The idea is that Math can tell a story. It can make the world around us seem logical with the use of the data and reasoning. Children can understand the steps to solve a problem but should be explained why they need to know this information and how math concepts can be applied to their everyday lives. Writing should be used as a tool for understanding mathematics and a way for students to express their knowledge. Writing is not just a literacy skill embedded in the language arts core standards, it is also a way to measure students understanding of a particular concept.
Writing in math is becoming more common and important. students are expected to write several sentences to explain how to solve math concepts and must justify their answers. I want to share with you four of my favorite ways to get your students writing in math on a regular basis.
Math Journals. I believe this one of the easiest ways that you can get students writing more in math. You can use a math journal or math prompts as a warm up for the math lesson or even as a separate station. Provide students with a math prompt they can attach into their journals, then they can respond. Some examples include: How did you know which operation to use with this problem? Could this problem be solved another way? Explain your answer. What can you do if you are stuck on a math problem? Write a similar math problem and explain how the problems are similar.
Problem of the Day. The same way you would model a new writing strategy, you should also model writing in math. I use a problem of the day to begin our daily math lesson. I use a skill we have previously learned to to allow students to feel confident with the math concept. I use these steps when completing the problem of the day.
- Read the problem together and circle key information
- Discuss the situation of the problem to ensure students understand how to solve.
- Allow the students a few minutes to work on the problem independently. Encourage students to use any strategy to solve the problem. With my first graders, I always want an illustration.
- Remind the students that they should be able to prove their answer. Using words or pictures can be used to explain how they got it.
- Solve the problem together as a class. Select students to help you solve the problem. You may want to note students you want to call on during the solving process.
- As a class, write the answer, explain the math that was used and why, and justify that the answer is correct.
Math Response Tasks. If you want your students to write more in math, you need to provide more opportunities. When creating math assignments avoid multiple choice problems, provide an open ended response task. This will require the students to answer the question and explain how they got their answer. You can use response tasks as extra practice and even assessments.
Gallery Walks. This method is a favorite. My students love gallery walks because they are able to move around and work with with their peers. They are a great way to get students reading math, writing about math, and analyzing other students’ writing. Follow these steps to create a gallery walk.
- Set up math tasks around the room written on large paper, such as anchor charts.
- With partners or small groups, have the students use a recording sheet to solve, explain, and prove their answers.
- Once all students have had an opportunity to solve the problems, assign groups to solve a task. This group will complete their work on the chart, explain their answers, and justify their math on the chart.
- You can have groups present their tasks to the class and allow for additional input or do one final walk-through to allow groups to analyze the students’ work on the charts and compare it to their own.
Whether you integrate math into your writing instruction or incorporate writing during your math lessons, your goal is to encourage written expression within mathematics. Students can create their own stories with math by explaining the process and justifying their answers.