Math teachers are often trying to increase two types of ratios: think and participation. Participation ratio describes the proportion of the class actively engaged in learning (ex: writing, answering questions, discussing math concepts, etc.).
Think ratio represents the depth of thinking students are doing (translating ideas to written and verbal format, building on previous ideas, developing new ideas, etc.). There are numerous strategies to increase think and participation ratio in the classroom, but this post will focus on writing in mathematics.
For writing in math classrooms to impact student learning, students must do more than copy notes from the board. Student writing should include reflections, questions, and personal connections. Students should be allowed to develop a conceptual understanding of the mathematics by explaining their thoughts or process for solving a problem.
What is a journal?
Math journaling is an example of a writing-to-learn strategy. A writing-to-learn strategy is used by teachers during various parts of the lesson to engage students and to help students develop big ideas.
Writing to learn employ short or informal writing tasks and emphasis is focused on ideas rather than accuracy or grammar. It’s less structured but writing to learn encourages critical thinking skills. Math journals allow students to record learning experiences and is often used to collect observations, questions, reflections, conclusions and facts learned.
How often should students engage in math journaling?
You as the teacher leader can decide how often to apply math journaling in your classroom. At the middle school level, we suggest math journaling once per week. Each prompt should take between five to seven minutes depending on the question.
Students should not spend too much time editing their answers because math journaling should be quick responses. While the focus is not on grammar or spelling, teachers should encourage students to write complete sentences and use correct spelling and grammar to the best of their ability.
Do students need an actual math journal to record entries?
We suggest that students use a specific notebook to write journal responses rather than using random pieces of paper each week. Using random pieces of paper may take away from the journaling experience and middle school students sometimes struggle with organization.
It’s highly likely that you will find that random piece of paper on the floor after the bell rings. If students use interactive notebooks in your classroom, it may be easier to set aside space in that notebook for weekly journal entries.
Where can I find writing prompts for a middle school math class?
We are so glad you asked! Join our newsletter list to access a downloadable FREE journal for your students. Newsletter subscribers receive new resources directly in their inbox earlier than blog readers. The printable journal includes 36 weekly prompts, a cover page, space to record responses and a tracking sheet.