Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writing in Mathematics

Getting Started

Often students who have difficulty writing in math class have less difficulty telling the teacher what they think.   Capitalize on this oral strength by incorporating the think-pair-share strategy more often into math lessons as a prelude to writing.  Using either of these options will increase the active participation of all students in the class.  The pause after a teacher's question provides think time for students, accommodating different learning styles and requiring all students to engage and reflect.

Think-Pair-Share: Some students are reluctant to write at first and benefit from practice sharing thoughts with a partner and hearing that partner put thoughts into words.   Reluctant students get to "practice" in a small setting with a partner before speaking to the whole class.   These students can also choose to share their thoughts, their partner's thoughts, or a combination of the two. 

The basic steps of Think-Pair-Share are:
  • Question:   Ask an open-ended question and tell students that they will think-pair-share the answer.
  • Think:   Give students 1-2 minutes to think quietly about their response to the question.   Walk around the room to reinforce this quiet, on-task response.
  • Pair:   Ask students to share thoughts with their partners and ask questions if they don't understand what their partner is saying.   Circulate around the room, listening to student conversations.
  • Share:   Ask for student volunteers to share as you begin this process. Later, you should call on non-volunteers to increase student accountability in this cooperative learning strategy.   Reinforce the expectation of active listening by requiring students to acknowledge the thoughts of classmates by saying:
    • I agree with [name's] answer...,
    • I don't agree with [name's] answer...,
    • I started the problem like [name] but then I...
  • NOTE: It is not necessary and, in fact, it is usually not time-effective to have each group share.   As you circulate around the room during the Pair share, identify students who have used different strategies or great models for thinking about an important concept.   Call on these students or their partners to share with the class. 

Think-Write-Pair-Share:   Once students are comfortable with the Think-Pair-Share strategy, introduce the Think-Write-Pair-Share strategy.   This strategy incorporates writing into the thinking process.   As students think about the question, they also write their response to the question using a variety of techniques: webbing, words, pictures, numbers, examples.   Teachers might start with a prompt poster that students can use for reference when they don't know where to start.   Effective prompts use successful pre-writing strategies such as:
  • Make a web.
  • Draw a picture and label.
  • Write a definition in your own words.
  • Create examples of the skill/concept and explain.
  • Write about a real-life use of this math concept or skill.
  • Connect the concept/skill to concepts/skills you already learned and use.
  • Reflect on your understanding of this concept/skill on a scale of 1-5 and explain.
  • Create a K-W-L chart of what you already know, what you want to know and what you have learned about the concept/skill.
Students then share their written responses with partners during which time students might elect to edit their own written response, choosing to replace certain words with better mathematical vocabulary, or add ideas and statements from their partner's writing.   Finally the teacher selects some students to share written responses with the class.   This process encourages students to get something down on paper and allows them some editing functions through the partner pairing.   Additionally, students benefit from regular listening to classmates sharing their own writing.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous post! I included a link in my Weekend Round-Up here: