Writing in Math

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by OUOhYeah, Sep 23, 2016.

  1. OUOhYeah

    OUOhYeah Comrade

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    Sep 23, 2016

    So my district has a goal that all teachers focus on writing across curriculum. I am wondering how I could do this with math? I teach ELA as well so I have an idea of what I could do, but I just wanted to see what everyone else feels.
     
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  3. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Sep 24, 2016

    Kids do write in math, especially today where they're really required to describe the steps, what they're thinking, solving problems, etc. Gone are the days of 2+2= 4. Now they must really articulate --in words-- what they want to express. I'm trying to impress that to my 3rd graders who are totally confused by it.
     
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  4. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Communicating your thinking is a critically important part of mathematics. Students should be writing in math--in ways that Leaborb mentioned, several times a week.
     
  5. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Which can be a challenge for the high math kids who just want to "get the right answer and be 'done' with it." I've fought that battle... But it really is important for the kids to be able to express themselves in writing. They could also write out step, by step how to solve problems if needed. It can help when you're trying to figure out where a kid is failing to understand the material.
     
  6. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Some of them hate it, but it is an important part of our math curriculum expectations--all the way through high school. Those students who are not able to communicate their mathematical thinking clearly and concisely, are not able to achieve at a Level 4 or an A level.
     
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  7. OUOhYeah

    OUOhYeah Comrade

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    Sep 25, 2016

    Don't worry, 5th graders hate this too....
     
  8. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Sep 25, 2016

    I don't really have a good grasp on this. Can someone explain what you would expect a 5th grader to write about in math, that is not explicitly shown by the student's mathematical symbols?

    I understand analyzing two different problems, finding where there is an error in one problem. I don't really understand writing steps out for a problem that they have clearly written out in math symbols.

    Having a conversation verbally, yes, writing out steps...not so sure, not seeing it.
     
  9. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Sep 27, 2016

    At least at 4th grade, writing about the math is still pretty difficult, and I'm finding that my bigger goal for the year is driving more productive discussions using a variety of sentence frames (and hopefully removing them over the year). That verbalization could then be turned into writing, but at least with my fourth graders, quality verbalization of thoughts and connecting/disagreeing with others is still a work in progress.
     
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  10. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I am not sure what I would write as an adult.
     
  11. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    Sep 28, 2016

    I remember doing this in elementary school because it was drilled into us. I do think it was helpful, though. Not sure but I think the teacher called them work samples. They were required by the state and/or district. I'll give a short example of what I remember.

    QUESTION / PROMPT (provided on paper):
    Lucy went to the grocery store. She bought 12 packs of cookies and 16 packs of noodles. How many packs of groceries did she buy in all?

    (Student's work):
    Restate: I know that Lucy bought 12 packs of cookies and 16 packs of noodles.

    Question: How many packs did she buy in all?

    Plan: To solve this problem, I will add 12 packs of cookies and 16 packs of noodles to find the total packs.

    12
    +16
    -------
    28

    As my math above shows, 12 plus 16 is 28. Therefore, Lucy bought 28 packs.

    Verify:
    To check my work, I will draw a picture and count the total number. Each circle is one package.
    000000000000 (cookies)
    0000000000000000 (noodles)
    After counting the circles, I verify that my answer of 28 packs is correct.
    ----------------------
    (END SAMPLE)
    ----------------------

    The con is this takes a while to complete and a lot of practice. The pro is that I really do feel that it is beneficial to be able to verbalize and write about your thinking process. Plus, writing about math is required now on the Smarter Balanced Assessment.
     
  12. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Sep 28, 2016

    So would you consider writing about math to be a KW chart and labeling your work?
     
  13. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    Sep 29, 2016

    It could be.

    For my students, I expect them to write about the strategy they chose and why they chose it (I chose to create a T-chart to organize the information in the problem. The T-chart helped me to see the pattern in the numbers so that I could develop an expression.). They should then write about how they applied the strategy they chose and how effective it was (I was able to use the expression I developed to find the 20th term in the sequence. I did this by substituting 20 for the variable in the expression). They should also write about any challenges they encountered and about another method that could be used to solve the problem (Another method that I could have used was to extend the T-chart instead of developing an expression. I didn't use this method because it would take a long time; it would work, though,)
     
  14. bewlove

    bewlove Companion

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    Oct 1, 2016

    I sometimes have my students write about which strategy they chose. Also, I have them write not only their steps, but their thinking. For example, they may write that when solving 5 x 12, they knew that 5 x 10 was 50, and then they just added two more sets of 5 to reach 60. I just want them explaining their thought process.
     
  15. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    Oct 1, 2016

    Some if this seems so forced and unnecessary. It makes me wonder if writing in math really has been implemented in the way it was imagined.

    Saying you are adding 12 to 15 then writing 15 + 12 is not showing any more understanding.

    Describing procedures isn't demonstrating the why. It is describing the how even when describing strategies.

    It was my understanding that writing in math was supposed to also include why things work, not how a student got to their answer. While that will help to ensure a student understands the procedure, it doesn't show they have a true understanding of math.
     
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  16. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Oct 1, 2016

    Agreed.
     
  17. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    The example that I gave was simplified on purpose, and a student would not likely have a question like that for a work sample. More often, it was something like, a garden needs 23 tomato plants, 13 heads of lettuce, and 15 pepper plants; what's the most effective way to plant this in a garden plot of 24x20, etc. Or, it would be something about money. What I mean is, typically it was something that required some more advanced thought and problem solving skills. However, the writing method was the same: State what you know, what you need to know, how you'll solve, and how you'll verify. I think that's all thinking that goes on subconsciously in someone's head when they're problem solving, and writing out thoughts (no matter the subject) can be beneficial, IMO.

    I don't know that you can give much of a "why" though, for something like 12+15. What kind of explanation could you possibly give? You could say something like "I need to combine these two numbers; to do that, I'll add" but that also seems superfluous.
     
  18. a2z

    a2z Maven

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    I understand you gave a simple example, but my opinion still stands. Though process can be important, but the why is what has been missing in math instruction. Some problems just don't lend themselves to writing. Now, the why might demonstrate number sense if there is more to your garden problem, but there is a language of math that has been set up that allows the thought process to be shown without words but symbols instead. That is why I really wonder if many of the things we do to fulfill writing in math is really what was intended.
     
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  19. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Oct 1, 2016

    This can be very effective. I just don't really consider this "writing" about math. IMO, this is some version of a KW chart or a way to organize the information, labeling the numbers in the word problem, make the problem "simple", answering the question in complete sentences...etc.

    I just see other teachers in my district wanting students to explain what they did and the student's are just saying what their math symbols clearly show.
     
  20. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    I agree, I wonder if people think the "writing" in math is just problem solving strategies?
     
  21. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    What about presenting one or more strategies and/or operations on a specified set of numbers (say, regrouping and addition with unlike fractions) and challenging students to devise a question that requires those strategies and to justify (all of) the strategies/operations used? A further refinement could be to bring in materials from a field that isn't math and have students construct plausible problems based on the given information. Students would be showing their understanding of those terms (the kid who really gets regrouping will point out that it's used not just when the sum of two fractions > 1 but that converting unlike fractions to common denominators is itself a kind of regrouping).
     
  22. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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  23. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    A lot of times writing in math involves explaining thinking OR correcting errors. The kids will read a word problem where they need to defend Lucy's strategy OR explain why Timmy's answer is incorrect. What did he do wrong? In order to do that, the students a) need to know and b) be able to explain.
     
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  24. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    This is the type of thing that the SBAC requires, so it's definitely a good skill to practice.
     
  25. Leaborb192

    Leaborb192 Enthusiast

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    Exactly! My third graders had to do it. And it was actually the push that my higher students (for sure &especially) needed! But it did help the other students --and me -- too because if students can (or can't) explain their thinking, it can help you figure out what the problems are.
     
  26. Pashtun

    Pashtun Fanatic

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    Yes, I stated that in post #7.
     
  27. YoungTeacherGuy

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    We adopted the Go Math! program last school year and there's actually quite a bit of writing that is embedded in the program (particularly in the constructed response sections).
     
  28. otterpop

    otterpop Aficionado

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    It seems like with most curricula, there are usually side bars saying things like "cross-curriculum connections" that also involve other subjects. I know our reading curriculum does that for science, social studies, and math. The old math curriculum that I used did that for ELA too I think.
     

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