Our first guest blogger for two apples a day is Joelle, who is not only fluent in English, but her native tongue is French. She has taught in elementary schools in Canada, before making the plunge to the international scene. She is currently teaching third grade at an international school here in Korea and happens to be our amazing co-worker.
Let’s make Math Journals come alive…
Yes, math journals are great ways to communicate and see what your students learned during a particular lesson. I will not argue the importance of math journals. However, what if I offered you an idea that not only got the students writing about math, but got them excited about math?
Turning Math Journals into Math Stories
Often math journals include a math problem where students create or complete a math question. Examples are; Jenny has 8 marbles, she gives Lucas 3 marbles. How many are in total? Another one may be, what is a fraction? There are so many questions we can ask our students to see if they really grasped a concept.
What if math journals were more than just a reflection or an answer to a problem? What if journals came to life?
What are Math Stories?
Math stories are written by the students about a particular concept you are covering in class. I personally use it at the end of my unit as a review of vocabulary and concepts. At the beginning, these stories may take your students 3 or 4 (50 minute periods) to write, however, the more the students do them, the easier it becomes and eventually may only take 2-3 (50 minute periods). For teachers, the best part of Math stories is that there is absolutely no planning involved, as long as you keep a list of key words or concepts going on Word Wall or Math Wall. This way, students can refer to this “already made list” on the board when writing their stories.
Math Stories for NEWBIES!
Model! Model! Model! Choose a math story and do a read aloud. If you are not sure where to begin, here is an excellent website with book lists for every math strand: http://childrenspicturebooks.info/articles/picture_books_for_math.htm
Afterwards, discuss with your students the various components of the story. What makes a math story? This lesson should look no different than what you do in language arts.
Day 1-2: In groups of 2, have your students start brainstorming and writing out a draft of their math story. Since the focus is on ideas, I usually don’t give them more than a period and a half to finish this portion.
Day 2-4: Using chart paper, have your students start writing and illustrating their story.
Day 5: What you do on this day is completely up to you. What I have done in the past is have students rotate to different groups and read each other’s stories.
Benefits of Math Stories
- Students are making connections with the concepts taught in class with real life examples
- Students who don’t like math will often find this activity amusing and not realize they are working or reviewing
- This activity can be adapted for any grade level
- Cooperative learning
- Easy to prepare
- Assessments can be made both for Math and Language Arts