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Writing in the Mathematics Classroom By: Alison Eanes maed 5040 3-18-2010
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Writing to Learn Writing helps students become aware of what they know and do not know, can and cannot do. “I’m starting to feel more comfortable on the computer….” When students write they connect their prior knowledge with what they are studying. “Before I had the ability to plot a graph, but now I can manipulate…..”
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Writing to Learn They summarize their knowledge & give teachers insights into their understanding. “….I can find zeros, turning points, etc.” They raise questions about new ideas. “I wonder how to do the slopes of curves.” They reflect on what they know. “The difference between two points changes when….”
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Where to Start?? If you have never had students write in class before, start with a warm up asking students to: Describe what we did in class yesterday. Explain what went wrong on problem 3 in the test. Discuss the most difficult homework problem. With more time, you might ask: Write a letter to an absent classmate about the new theorem.
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Effective Strategies Ask students to write a short note on the back of their homework paper: Was this hard or easy? What was most difficult? What was new? With reading assignments, ask students to write a list of he main ideas, definitions of new terms, or new methods. Include these on tests.
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More Effective Strategies Give students writing prompts, like: I think calculators… Factoring is easy when… I can do word problems when… To study for a math test I usually… The trouble with this section is…
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Useful Activities Think-Pair-Share & Think-Write-Pair-Share Discussion strategy where students think individually, write down their thoughts, and share with classmates how to answer a question or solve a problem. This is great alternative to calling on individual students randomly and expecting them to answer on the spot. This activity is also useful when students are not responding to a question asked by the teacher.
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Math Vocabulary Journals This enables students to select their own vocabulary words to develop and increase their knowledge. Helps students focus attention on new words of interest, whether in the classroom or at home.
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RAFT (Role, Audience, Format, Topic) This is a system that helps students understand their roles as writers (R), the audience they will address (A), the varied formats for writing (F), and the expected topic (T). RAFT’s are usually written from a view poit other than the students and to an audience rather than to the teacher.
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KWL Plus (Know, Want, Learned) This is a brainstorming strategy that requires the students to tell everything they know (K) about a math topic, indicate what they want (W) to know, or expect to learn, and then after the lesson, tell what they have Learned (L).
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GIST (Generating Interactions between Schemata and Text) This activity advances comprehension by having students summarize or generalize a longer text. This allows students to put problems into their own words. This is a great activity for word problems.
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Resources Countryman, Joan (1992). Writing to Learn Mathematics, Strategies That Work. Portsmouth, NH: Heinmann. Kawas, Terry (2006). Writing in Mathematics. http://www.mathwire.com/writing/writing1.html Taylor, Bruce D. & Wood, Karen D (2006). Literacy Strategies Across the Subject Areas. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.
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