Throwback Thursday – Journaling in the Singapore Math Classroom

Over the summer, we thought it would be fun to run some of the most popular posts from the past. Journaling in math class has become quite popular. We’d love to hear your successes or challenges with math journals!


Journaling in the Singapore Math Classroom

Originally published 10/13/2016

Communicating mathematically is a critical skill and goal for all of our students to reach by the end of middle school. In fact, Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practices, MP3, states that students will, “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of other.”

Singapore’s Ministry of Education would tell you that there’s nothing Singaporean about Singapore math.  When developing their highly successful math curriculum, they took theory and ideas from mathematicians and educational theorists around the world and put them into action.

What should a math journal look like?

I have attended many workshops and make-and-take sessions on planning and preparing for student math journals.  Many have focused on setting up the student journal with a contents page and tabs to divide the journal into “notes,” “vocabulary” and “practice problem” sections.  While this will create a journal that looks really nice, what I have found to be most effective (and one that I actually use in the classroom) is taking a simple composition or spiral bound notebook and beginning on the first page.  Students make their first journal entry of the school year on page one and continue with entries on subsequent pages. Less is more!

Here’s what a journal entry page might look like:

journal-photo

The journal entry number just grows as the year progresses.  We might come up with the title as a class, or students can create their own.  The problem in the problem box can be copied by students or printed out for students to paste in their journals.

What should students put into journals?

There are four basic types of journal entries; investigative, descriptive, evaluative and creative.

Investigative: Students explore a new concept, solve a problem and make connections to prior learning.

  • Example: Three friends share a sleeve of cookies.  Each sleeve holds 32 cookies.  If each friend eats ¼ of the sleeve, how many cookies do they eat altogether?

Descriptive: Students describe or explain a concept or mathematical vocabulary.

  • Example: Use pictures, numbers and/or words to explain a polygon.

Evaluative: Students argue for or against a strategy or solution to explain why they think an answer is right or wrong, explain their choice of strategies or justify the most efficient strategy.

  • Example: Which of the strategies discussed in class today would you use to solve 245 – 97?  Why?

Creative: Students write their own word problem or create their own number puzzle.

  • Example:  The answer is 465 lbs.  What’s the question?

Here’s a sample student  journal page (click on image to enlarge):

scan0018

When should I ask students to make journal entries?

Journaling can be a very effective tool to develop communication skills in your students.  Depending on the type of entry, you could incorporate journaling into many parts of your math day.  Open a class with an investigative entry to engage students.  Consolidate learning and reflect on thinking with a mid-lesson descriptive or evaluative entry.  Enrich students with a creative entry for early finishers of independent practice.

The benefit of journaling for the teacher is it provides a concrete formative assessment.  By evaluating student responses, you can determine their readiness to handle a new task and check for understanding of concepts.  Student journals also provide a great launching point for discussion at parent-teacher conferences.

_____________

Check out a resource from a previous post: Singapore Math and Math Journal Writing

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Journaling in the Singapore Math Classroom

Communicating mathematically is a critical skill and goal for all of our students to reach by the end of middle school. In fact, Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practices, MP3, states that students will, “Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of other.”

Singapore’s Ministry of Education would tell you that there’s nothing Singaporean about Singapore math.  When developing their highly successful math curriculum, they took theory and ideas from mathematicians and educational theorists around the world and put them into action.

What should a math journal look like?

I have attended many workshops and make-and-take sessions on planning and preparing for student math journals.  Many have focused on setting up the student journal with a contents page and tabs to divide the journal into “notes,” “vocabulary” and “practice problem” sections.  While this will create a journal that looks really nice, what I have found to be most effective (and one that I actually use in the classroom) is taking a simple composition or spiral bound notebook and beginning on the first page.  Students make their first journal entry of the school year on page one and continue with entries on subsequent pages. Less is more!

Here’s what a journal entry page might look like:

journal-photo

The journal entry number just grows as the year progresses.  We might come up with the title as a class, or students can create their own.  The problem in the problem box can be copied by students or printed out for students to paste in their journals.

What should students put into journals?

There are four basic types of journal entries; investigative, descriptive, evaluative and creative.

Investigative: Students explore a new concept, solve a problem and make connections to prior learning.

  • Example: Three friends share a sleeve of cookies.  Each sleeve holds 32 cookies.  If each friend eats ¼ of the sleeve, how many cookies do they eat altogether?

Descriptive: Students describe or explain a concept or mathematical vocabulary.

  • Example: Use pictures, numbers and/or words to explain a polygon.

Evaluative: Students argue for or against a strategy or solution to explain why they think an answer is right or wrong, explain their choice of strategies or justify the most efficient strategy.

  • Example: Which of the strategies discussed in class today would you use to solve 245 – 97?  Why?

Creative: Students write their own word problem or create their own number puzzle.

  • Example:  The answer is 465 lbs.  What’s the question?

Here’s a sample student  journal page (click on image to enlarge):

scan0018

When should I ask students to make journal entries?

Journaling can be a very effective tool to develop communication skills in your students.  Depending on the type of entry, you could incorporate journaling into many parts of your math day.  Open a class with an investigative entry to engage students.  Consolidate learning and reflect on thinking with a mid-lesson descriptive or evaluative entry.  Enrich students with a creative entry for early finishers of independent practice.

The benefit of journaling for the teacher is it provides a concrete formative assessment.  By evaluating student responses, you can determine their readiness to handle a new task and check for understanding of concepts.  Student journals also provide a great launching point for discussion at parent-teacher conferences.

_____________

Check out a resource from a previous post: Singapore Math and Math Journal Writing

Scridb filter

Singapore Math and Math Journal Writing

Out in Left Field posts a Math Problem of the Week comparing different curricula that schools use. Last week’s Riddles in 2nd Grade Investigations vs. Singapore Math and the ensuing comments brought up discussion on the value of writing in the mathematics classroom.  I picked up a book entitled: Journal Writing in the Mathematics Classroom (Primary) when I was in Singapore. It is written and published by professors at Singapore’s National Institute of Education.

Among the chapters listed:

Why use Journal Writing?

Journal writing reinforces the learning and provides pupils with opportunities to engage in reflection, question their own understanding, connect the abstract and the concrete, and apply the knowledge they have acquired to solve problems.

How to Carry Out Journal Writing?

This section starts with an this powerful statement about journal writing in the classroom:

Journal writing is a complex process that requires effort and patience.

The authors further suggest that these open-ended prompts encourage pupils to write about their opinions and feelings on mathematics. They have adapted and describe three types of general writing prompts:

1. Affective or Attitudinal (How do you feel?)

  • My best kept secret about math is …
  • If math could be a colour (shape, sound) it would be … because

2. Mathematical content (What is it about?)

  • How would you describe a …
  • What patterns do you notice in …

3. Process (Explain how!)

  • Find something that you learned today that is similar to something you already knew.
  • You know several ways to … Which method is you favourite? Why?

There is a list of 15 of each type of general writing prompt. The bulk of the book, however, focuses on specific writing prompts that are based on mathematical topics.

Possible Negative Aspects of Journal Writing

(Lessons learned the hard way when I was teaching!)

    a. The potential for the teacher to hurt pupil’s feelings.
    b. The loss of instructional time to teach syllabuses
    c. Tremendous increase in the marking load of the teacher.
    d. Emphasis on language proficiency

Scoring Rubrics and Student Examples

This section includes examples of two types of scoring rubrics: Analytic, which allows for separate evaluation of selected factors and Holistic, which can be used when teachers want to rate student responses more generally.

A Collection of Specific Writing Prompts

Finally, there are 55 specific writing prompts differentiated by grade level and topic. Topics include: Whole Numbers, Fractions, Decimals, Percentage, Ratio, Rate, Measurement, Geometry, Statistics and Algebra. Some examples:

Topic: Whole Numbers
Level: Primary 2 – 6

Write a word problem and make a picture that goes with 4 x 3.

Topic: Decimals
Level: Primary 4 – 6

Find two decimal numbers between 0.2 and 0.3. How many decimal numbers are there between 0.2 and 0.3? Explain.

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