Writing About Our Math

    When we teach students to write about the math that we do, we are automatically raising their level of critical thinking. We are also strengthening their non-fiction writing skills.  I want to make this a central focus of my math lessons this year and, believe me, I'll be building this airplane while I'm flying it!

     Our first lessons during this past week began with a fairly simple word problem.  I tried to lower potential stress levels by reminding students that we were training ourselves to write in math and that grades were not an issue right now.

      I started with an anchor chart that explains the basic steps in the process.  It is a really simple list of steps in the process.  Each step could be fleshed out, but I'm starting small.  The big deal that I'm stressing is to justify, justify, justify!  Prove it!  Convince me!

 I solved the problem myself, following the steps on our anchor chart.  The problem was:

 "Jennifer earned $5.25 per hour last week.  She got a raise and will receive $5.85 next week.  She works 40 hours each week.  How much more will Jennifer earn next week than she did last week?"

My response went like this:

1.  The question asks for the difference in two amounts, so I know I will subtract at some point.
2.  I need to find the amount Jennifer earned last week.  I know I can add $5.25 for 40 times or, to be more efficient, I can multiply.  
3.  I multiplied $5.25 times 40 hours and got $210 for her salary last week.
4.  I need to find the amount Jennifer will earn next week with her raise.  I will multiply again.
5.  I multiplied $5.85 times 40 hours and got $234.
6.  Now, I'll subtract the two amounts: $234 - $210 = $24.
7.  Jennifer will earn $24 more next week with her raise than she earned last week.

     Students worked in pairs to solve a new problem.  After they agreed on how to solve the problem, they wrote their steps on paper, making sure they justified each step.

     They went to a Chromebook and created a document with their steps.

     Their last step was to set up their Chromebooks on their desks and we did a "gallery walk" around the room, reading each others documents.  I told them they would see some documents that had a better explanation than their own and some that didn't sound as good as their own.  Either way, we're learning.
     I'll be honest - I could use some help with this.  How do you teach writing in math?  I'd love to hear your comments!
Growing Grade By Grade
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