Sunday, February 21, 2016

Math Writing Priorities

In my January post, I wrote about conferring in math and my challenges in putting together a system for conferring regularly with my students.  Now, I think that I am trying too hard to try to create a routine that may work better for literacy than math.  Lately, my student teacher and I have agreed that we will have a set group that he meets with daily and I will have an invitation group that I meet with to meet with those kids who need a second look.  We have a very simple recording sheet where we keep track of who we have met with and which skills we are working on.  My thinking has stayed the same here, conferring is an important time of our workshop where we can hold kids accountable for their thinking and is a good time to evaluate kids' progression toward understanding. 

The other routine that I am really focused on is our reflection time.  I am carving out 10 minutes at the end of the lesson so that students can verbalize  and synthesize their thinking after the lesson.  I put a prompt on the board for students to write about. The prompt is usually related to their thinking and a thinking strategy.  An example is, "How did you determine which strategy was best when ordering fractions?"  They write and then we listen to several students share their thinking.   I have found this time to be a good one to check in with students' understanding.  It is also a good time to emphasize the focus on understanding, rather than on production.  I have found that student writing has improved with this routine, and I have also been impressed with student thinking during this time. 

My question at this point is: How do I translate this conferring time and reflection time to productive math writing time?  Should production be a priority? Is it important that we do formal math writing, or is it enough for students to do smaller math writing pieces that reveal their understanding as they explain thinking and strategies?


  1. I, also, have begun using "Prompts" for my kids to reflect to each day. The result, overall, has been fantastic. I think often times, kids struggle when they are given too much choice in their responses resulting in low quality and surface level thinking. I am wondering if I continue these prompts for a set period of time if the depth of their reflections will remain when we return to "free choice".

  2. Jeff
    I struggle with the same problem! Sometimes I feel like the students should be doing major writing in math but then I start to think that they should be working on solving math. When they get in to Algebra they don't generally have to write a big piece about how they solved it and used all of the thinking strategies to get there, they just tell you what x equals. I am at a point where I think they might just need to solve the problems in the way that works best for them and not always be caught up in the how did they solve it and how many steps it took to solve it.