I am an ELA teacher, but I often collaborate with the math teacher on my team to teach writing. He has found a really effective way is to ask students to write paragraph explanations of how they solved problems, using math domain-specific vocabulary. He requires them to use enough details where a non-math teacher would understand the exact steps they used to solve the problem. He uses a T-note style where the math is on the left and the explanation is on the right. He then has student highlight the math terms such as product, quotient, cross products, etc... Their writing is really improving and they are starting to think more about their problem solving process.
Hope this helps!
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Here are some things I have done in the past: assign projects that require write ups, math journals where you have to explain how you got the answer to something, have students correct exams by putting into words what they did wrong on the problems they missed, and having students write word problems themselves. In Statistics, there is a lot more writing done - when it comes to interpreting data and making conclusions based on what the numbers are telling them - an answer is rarely complete without some written words explaining the answer. The same goes with word problems. I will not give full credit if the answer to a word problem is just a number - students need to use full sentences to interpret and put in to context the numbers they are finding.
Tips on creating writing prompts and giving feedback:
(1) When introducing writing prompts, focus on how the writer connects with mathematics. Beginning mathematics writers are more comfortable writing about themselves than the content itself. Save prompts aimed at class activities, data, or theorems until later.
(2) Help students develop their writing skills by giving very specific descriptive directions, but still giving them freedom to be creative. For example, tell them to ‘include relevant diagrams and equations within the text of your memo, not just at the end’ or ‘use the superscript button on the font menu to make exponents.’ But don’t show examples in class because you will notice that your students come up with extremely similar ideas.
(3) Use the words how and why often. These questions will be more thought-provoking than other questions. Have them respond to such prompts as “Describe how you would…” or “Your friend Joey missed class. Explain how to…”
(4) Give specific feedback such as “your summary was concise, yet thorough” instead of “good job.” Don’t judge spelling and grammar, and keep your comments positive. Respond in the form of a question when it is appropriate; this both continues the dialogue between you and your students and forces them to think more deeply about the matter. Be sure you look for their responses to your feedback!
(5) At the end of a topic, chapter, or unit, require students to reflect on their progress. Ask them “The test is tomorrow. How do you think you will do and why?” or “Go back through the homework from this chapter. Find a problem that you did incorrectly at first. Explain what you did wrong and what you should have done or how you corrected your mistake.”
(6) Be creative. For example, ask them write a poem using math vocabulary. Tell them that they are a ‘graphic artist’ and their job is to combine graphs of polar coordinates to form a logo for a fictional club. Or ask them to write freely about what a world without circles would be like. Their responses will be clever and entertaining.
(7) Give students 10 or 15 minutes at the end of a class period to write. Collect their writing, and return it the next class. The last portion of a class sometimes is not productive otherwise, so giving them the opportunity to summarize the processes in their own words is helpful.
You might consider using 2-column notes, creating flow charts for algorithms on the computer. There are some interesting i-Pad apps for writing and posting that could be used for math too. If you want to differentiate offer students multiple choices and let them take ownership by selected which product they would like to do.
I like the T-note style and will use it in my class as well as share with my PLC. Thanks.
I especially like the 'respond with a question to keep the dialogue going' strategy. I will definitely pleasantly surprise my students with the question dialogue.
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