Writing in math is much more than copying down an equation and then solving it. And it’s much more than just answering a quick question in a journal near the end of a lesson. It’s about helping students learn to effectively communicate their ideas in math. Today I’m going to offer you eleven different ideas of what your students can write about in math that can expand your students’ thinking.
Writing helps develop a deeper understanding of math concepts while developing and extending understandings. It also helps students revisit their thinking and reflect on ideas. If you’re looking to increase critical thinking, then adding more writing consistently in math is essential. To have your students develop this, teachers will need to model and practice writing in math, with an emphasis on the math rather than on the language arts piece. (While spelling and appropriate grammar are important, students need to focus on mathematical thinking.) Typically the focus is more centered on “how did you get your answer?” than anything else.
11 Ideas for Writing in Math
1.) Pictures and Diagrams. You may want to start here. Have students show what they know and then gradually assist with adding text and diagrams to better explain their ideas.
2.) Make Lists and Give Examples. Have students create lists of real-world use of decimals or create a list of examples of how fractions are used. Perhaps create a list of different ways to solve a problem.
3.) Write Word Problems. This is one of the critical links between doing math and understanding math. By having students write word problems, it helps them assess math concepts and provide a strong foundation for math problem-solving.
4.) Predict/Answer Outcome. When students are predicting the answer, they are building number sense. It also supports the development of problem-solving skills and tests their reasoning skills.
5.) Define/Describe. Have students show what they know about math terms and concepts. This would be a good time to introduce a (free download) Modified Frayer Model for vocabulary.
6.) Explain a Process. Have students write the directions, indicate the steps, or order for doing the process.
7.) Compare and/or Contrast. Have students compare and/or contrast concepts, processes, or solutions. This helps build a stronger understanding of those ideas.
8.) Justify a Process or Solution. Have students elaborate on why they believe an answer is correct or a process was reasonable. Remind students that they should use math data and logical reasoning to strengthen their justification.
9.) Write a Summary. Have students pinpoint the key ideas they learned in the math lesson that day.
10.) Reflect on Learning. Have students reflect on the content knowledge, the mathematical connections made, the students’ feelings or the attitudes about learning math. These reflections can help you gain insight and clarity into misunderstandings, what needs to be retaught, and how you can support frustrated learners.
11.) Creative Writing. Yes, there is a place for creative writing in math. Have students create poems, essays, stories, tall tales while blending in some math content knowledge. There are many picture books out there that do this.
Math does not always have to be strictly about numbers. When we integrate writing into math, we are provided with a deeper understanding of the mind of our students and how we can help them further. These writings do not have to be graded and only take about 5 minutes to do. Have students write 3-4 sentences with open-ended questions. Then share and give a little feedback. This will prove to be valuable.
If you’re looking for mathematical journal response pages like the ones in this post that help get your students to write more (and meet those mathematical practice standards), click here. They are $3.00 in my TpT Store.