Thursday, June 14, 2012

Effective Math Instruction and Journaling

Ha!  Isn't this the truth!
 We met to discuss the results of our spring math test before school let out.  It was a tough test and the rigor has been increased tremendously.  Students need to work through tough multistep questions and must be flexible in using logic and strong reasoning skills  if they are to do well on these tests.
Because of the new testing expectations, teachers are gearing up and planning on spending even more time and attention on improving mathematics instruction.
So herein lies a positive outcome! 

One important component of my math program is the math journal.
My students split a marble composition book  in half last year.  The first half was for note writing and the second half was for problem solving.

Sometimes I will give my students a math problem to respond to in their journals.Other times it is much more open ended and students respond to their learning using a thinking stem (see below).
I am careful about what I use for graded pieces here.  I am fearful that a graded journal would communicate that there is a "right" or "wrong" response.  I would rather see the journal used for a place to write about their insights, understandings or partial understandings, connections, conjectures, and questions. I learn so much about what they know from reading these journals.

Note taking, including math vocabulary was done in the same journal but in another section.  We often referred to prior learning before starting something new.  Having notes recorded was helpful in building these bridges.  

Here are some inserts that I use in the front of the math journal:
Here is an example of the student math responsibilities that I stress with all students. Being a productive math student fits in with our PBIS behavior plan.  

Our school system is using the Exemplar Program to help students develop further in the area of problem solving.  Next year I plan on focusing much more on this.  We use a standard rubric to assess students.  Key here is to teach the rubric to the students so they begin taking control over their own math learning and development.

Here are some of the math inserts I use for the math journal.  Visit me on Teachers Pay Teachers to grab a free download of the ones shown below.



  1. I use math journals in first. They leave first grade without fear of problem solving, inventing their own strategies, and explaining their thinking not only in their journal but to others as well. Hopefully that prepares them for what they'll need to be able to do in 3rd grade. :)

    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

  2. I love this idea!! I think it would be great for students to use as a tool to see how math is all connected. I might have to try this next year with my 3rd graders :) Thanks for sharing!

    Dirty Hands and Lesson Plans

  3. Thank you so much for sharing how you use math journals in your classroom. I can't wait to incorporate your ideas with my students next year!!!

  4. I am planning on using math notebooks next year with my 3rd graders. I really appreciate this post. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Lifelong Learning

  5. Thank you so much for this! It's going to be my first year fully implementing the math journals. This really helps with some ideas to make sure my students know the expectations in using the journals.

  6. Thanks- I can't wait to give this a try.

  7. I loved reading the comments and emails about math journaling! It is a powerful learning and assessment tool. I am convinced of its benefits and hope you all will be too! Let me know how it goes!

  8. Thanks for sharing! This will be a big help as we focus on developing our students' ability to communicate about math.