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Math Journals


Mathematics Social-Emotional Learning ^21st Century Skills All Ages Strategy


Anxiety Abstract Reasoning Spatial Perception

Math Journals

If your students are disengaged or unmotivated about math, particularly if they enjoy writing

Teach It!

  1. Objective: Math journaling will help students develop mathematical thinking and reflect on their math learning in a way that does not depend on numbers or equations.
  2. Teacher Takeaways: There are many ways to implement math journals. The basic idea is, just like writing language arts journals, math journals are a private place where students can think, reflect and express themselves freely. The journal can help them develop a positive mindset and self-awareness about math strategies.
  3. Implementation: Math journals should include student responses to open-ended teacher prompts, so students can write without needing to solve a problem. The prompts should help the teacher learn about their students' thinking and help students focus on a topic or problem type. Model the process of responding to a journal prompt with your students, as combining math with writing might not come naturally to many.
  4. Elementary Examples: Prompts might include, "Write your own story about [4-2=2]." The student might write or draw, "Anne's mom packed her 4 cookies in her lunchbox. She gave 1 to David and 1 to Marci. She had 2 left for herself."
  5. Middle/High School Example: As students get older, they can journal in a more self-reflective way about their attitudes about math (I love math because...or Math is challenging when...), or explain their process for solving a problem (I solved this problem by...or I also could have...) and explain what they have learned (Today I learned...or I can use this approach in real life when I...).
  6. Logistics: Typically teachers encourage students to write for 5-10 minutes, 1-2 times per week. Following up with a period of sharing, if students are willing, can help students understand multiple perspectives and that they might have similar challenges. Ideally journals become part of the class routine, so students view math more holistically.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

With math journals, students can reflect in a more holistic way about what they understand, what topics they find difficult, and learn to verbalize mathematics concepts. Learning to think about math in words takes some of the emphasis off numbers and computation. This reinforces conceptual understanding. It also reduces stress for many students and gives teachers insight into how students approach problem solving.