When most people think about math, they probably don’t associate it with writing. However, the two go hand-in-hand. Writing about math helps students solidify their understanding of the concepts they are learning and makes them better communicators overall. Here’s a closer look at why writing about math is important and why I use it as often as possible!
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Math is a Language
Just like any other language, math has its own symbols and rules that students need to learn in order to communicate effectively. When students write about math, they are practicing using the language of math to express themselves. This helps them better understand their learning concepts and makes them more confident in their abilities.
It’s also an opportunity for them to use the math vocabulary we teach. If we want to hear them use that vocabulary – we need to give them opportunities to use it.
Suddenly, you will hear students using math vocabulary naturally as they talk about math.
Writing About Math Helps Students Organize Their Thoughts
Math can be challenging, and often there are multiple ways to solve a problem. Writing about math forces students to slow down and think about what they are doing. It also allows them to see the different steps involved in solving a problem, which can be helpful when they get stuck.
Before they write – it’s helpful to talk about it with each other. One way to encourage good conversation is with math question stems. Giving students this guidance can make the talk truly productive and accountable. These accountable talk task cards are perfect for this. I like to print and laminate them and then place a set at each table group. When I’m ready for them to talk – they can just grab the cards.
Writing About Math – What I Use
One of the easiest ways to get your students to write about math is to be intentional about it. That means putting it into your lesson plan. Easier said than done – right? That’s why I love using this method developed by a 3rd-grade team I was a part of. It’s called RUPSE, and it stands for:
- Explain (in writing)
It’s a complete method for students to use when solving word problems. It takes them through the process in a way that helps them learn to problem-solve step by step. You will love using this because it breaks down the process into manageable steps, and the last one is EXPLAIN – where the writing comes in.
That last step – E for EXPLAIN in writing – is when I became convinced that writing in math was a BIG DEAL. Breaking down the steps they used as they solved a problem helped students 1) comprehend how to solve a problem and 2) find where a mistake might have been made.
It helped me see where misconceptions were in the solutions that resulted in wrong answers. When students write about their learning – you can see their thinking.
Writing About Math Improves Communication Skills
To explain their thinking, students have to be able to communicate clearly and concisely. This is a valuable skill that will serve them well both inside and outside the classroom. Communicating their thoughts also helps students when working on group projects or presenting in front of the class.
Communicating clearly and concisely takes practice. You have to model and coach your students constantly for them to be able to reach this goal.
One way I found that helped students improve their writing was to read their responses to each other, to me, and the class as a whole. As they read it – they hear when something doesn’t make sense, or a word is missing. But more importantly – they start to love writing about math. They want to share it with everyone!
It Takes Practice – Lots of It!
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.” – Octavia E. Butler
This is SO true! When elementary students start writing – it’s not great. BUT – it will get better. Just keep modeling and coaching, give feedback, and encourage them. You will be so happy and gratified at how much their writing improves as well as their math skills!
Writing about math is an important part of helping students learn the language of mathematics and improve their communication skills. If you’re looking for a way to help your students better understand their learning concepts, have them write about it! You may be surprised at how much it helps.
Would you like this FREE R.U.P.S.E. Math Worksheet to encourage your students to write about math?
Resources used in this post:
The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.Robert John Meehan
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