Writing in Algebra (2 of 3) – The PA Core Standards

by Jared Campbell

As math teachers, we must focus on building students’ mathematical communication skills. This means teaching vocabulary, having students write their mathematical processes and understandings, reading each other’s written work and providing feedback.

Writing in math class supports learning because it requires students to organize, clarify, and reflect on their ideas. In other words, the writing process is useful for making sense of mathematics. In addition, when students write their papers provide a window into their understandings, their misconceptions, and their feelings about the content they are learning.

The PA Common Core Standards include 8 Standards for Mathematical Practice. Two of them are as follows:
• Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
• Construct valid arguments & critique the reasoning of others.

These mathematical practices are easy to integrate into academic writing in the math classroom. As we structure our classes around building fluency, deepening conceptual understandings, and applying mathematics to the world around us, writing is an invaluable tool. Writing helps teachers to better understand students’ thinking by putting their thought process on paper and the students become effective communicators.

Consider the following example: At the end of class students are asked to write a letter to an absent student explaining the 2 most important ideas from the day’s lesson. They must explain how it connected to yesterday’s lesson, and why it will be important in the future.

Giving students 5-8 minutes at the end of class to complete this short activity will serve multiple purposes. First, it will allow them to summarize the content and make decisions about the most important pieces of content while connecting them to other math. Second, it gives the teacher a chance to assess what each student believed to be the most important ideas. The teacher can also use this information to assess whether or not students understood the content through their explanations. In addition, the teacher will be able to plan the opening of tomorrow’s class to address any issues. Finally, this piece of writing can be used by the educator to reflect on their planning and implementation of the lesson.

Take a look at this article from Educational Leadership by Marilyn Burns.

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