Thursday, February 2, 2017

Does Writing Help Improve Understanding?


Pencil, Sharpener, Notebook, Paper  I have always been told if you can explain it in your own words, you show you understand the material, at least in English.  I wondered if the same thing applies to mathematics?

First of all, research indicates that improving a students ability to both read and write increases their learning.  In addition, writing can reveal misunderstandings, holes, and other issues with a person's understanding.

Most of us have never been trained to include writing in our math classroom.  I am the first to admit, I tried to have students journal their thoughts early on but I discovered they only copied their notes.  Since then, I've learned ways to sneak it in so they cannot just copy the notes.

Many students can solve any problem you give them but the minute you ask them how they got the answer, they tell you its done.  Others come up with the correct answer, only because they made an error in their calculations.  They don't care the process was not correct. I get told "I was close enough."  I try to explain close enough, especially in real life, could mean a bridge falling down or a building crumbling to the ground.

In addition, it may not be the actually writing that is important, instead it may be that writing requires students to think about their ideas and communicate those ideas.  When we require students to begin writing in the math class, we have to make sure to create a situation so students are willing to take a risk. 

I finally figured out how to implement more journaling in my class.  I give a warm-up at the beginning of the class period.  Since I collect these every week, I can have them write something on the back every day or every other day.  I do not include enough writing in my classroom but after reading two articles listed at the bottom, I have ideas.

Some of the suggestions include:
1. Have students explain in writing, how they solved a problem.

2.  Create solutions as if they are writing a textbook.  This would include the explanations associated with each step of finding the solution.

3. A short essay on what do you mean when you are asked to prove something.

4. Letters to the teacher to explain the student's confusion in regard to material taught.

5. Write a letter to someone who was sick that day to explain the material covered that day so the student does not get behind.

6. Create writing tasks which have students explaining their work complete with examples.

7. Free writing where students write for a short period of time on a set topic. 

8.  Teach students to apply the 5 W's (who, what, etc) when they write on a specific topic.

9. Have students work collaboratively to create a written explanation of their thinking.

10. Have students write a letter to help someone who is struggling with the material.  How would they explain the process and the concept.

This site has some very good detailed suggestions on using writing in the classroom.
Here is another one.   I have always been told if you can explain it in your own words, you show you understand the material, at least in English.  I wondered if the same thing applies to mathematics?

First of all, research indicates that improving a students ability to both read and write increases their learning.  In addition, writing can reveal misunderstandings, holes, and other issues with a person's understanding.

Most of us have never been trained to include writing in our math classroom.  I am the first to admit, I tried to have students journal their thoughts early on but I discovered they only copied their notes.  Since then, I've learned ways to sneak it in so they cannot just copy the notes.

Many students can solve any problem you give them but the minute you ask them how they got the answer, they tell you its done.  Others come up with the correct answer, only because they made an error in their calculations.  They don't care the process was not correct. I get told "I was close enough."  I try to explain close enough, especially in real life, could mean a bridge falling down or a building crumbling to the ground.

In addition, it may not be the actually writing that is important, instead it may be that writing requires students to think about their ideas and communicate those ideas.  When we require students to begin writing in the math class, we have to make sure to create a situation so students are willing to take a risk.

I finally figured out how to implement more journaling in my class.  I give a warm-up at the beginning of the class period.  Since I collect these every week, I can have them write something on the back every day or every other day.  I do not include enough writing in my classroom but after reading two articles listed at the bottom, I have ideas.

Some of the suggestions include:
1. Have students explain in writing, how they solved a problem.

2.  Create solutions as if they are writing a textbook.  This would include the explanations associated with each step of finding the solution.

3. A short essay on what do you mean when you are asked to prove something.

4. Letters to the teacher to explain the student's confusion in regard to material taught.

5. Write a letter to someone who was sick that day to explain the material covered that day so the student does not get behind.

6. Create writing tasks which have students explaining their work complete with examples.

7. Free writing where students write for a short period of time on a set topic.

8.  Teach students to apply the 5 W's (who, what, etc) when they write on a specific topic.

9. Have students work collaboratively to create a written explanation of their thinking.

10. Have students write a letter to help someone who is struggling with the material.  How would they explain the process and the concept.

This site has some very good detailed suggestions on using writing in the classroom.
Here is another one.