Writing Prompt #1: The Tools of Mathematics

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SWBAT reflect on the math practice standards and establish which are most important to their success.

Big Idea

Writing in mathematics? Absolutely!

Set the Stage

5 minutes

A sure fire way to get your students to groan at the start of math class is to give them a writing prompt!  As I mention in my video narrative we have a district-wide initiative for writing across the curriculum, one class per quarter dedicated to a writing prompt. In the video I explain the importance of coaching students through the initial resistance to get them to appreciate the purpose and value of this exercise and while making connections to the Common Core Mathematical Practice Standards.

Writing Time

35 minutes

This writing prompt is structured so that the students can express themselves in writing.  Even if you choose not to explicitly bring to the forefront the Math Practice Standards in your opening discussion, as mentioned in the Set the Stage video narrative, you will probably be impressed by how closely your students' responses align to the practice standards themselves.  This is because the practice standards are not a "new" or "innovative" concept!  They have long been a part of a quality math experience, and teachers and students alike both have a strong sense of identifying good mathematical practices. 

All of the math practices are present in this lesson and one of the most beneficial things we do as teachers is REFLECT.  Likewise, creating opportunities for the students to reflect on their learning is equally important.  The attached journals are excellent ways to promote this reflective thinking.  It even makes for a worthwhile discussion on the following day if you can work it into the start of your class!

NOTE:  Students in our classes are required to write 4 writing prompts over the course of a year.  This writing prompt is #1 in a series of four prompts.   

Grading the Writing

5 minutes

I grade the writing prompts according to our district-created rubric.  Each class is required to give a writing prompt each nine weeks.  After scoring the prompts, we enter them into a school-wide database that allows us to track and target individual writing performance over a student's four year career.  My students write in math class for more than just the four district writing prompts, but these targeted approaches are a great way to monitor and celebrate growth.

Prior to the Common Core, and a resulting shift in my thoughts about mathematics education, I did not count the writing activities as a formal grade in my course.  However, given the importance of the math practice standards and a realization that PARCC and Smarter Balance both hint at elements of writing, I have revised my course grading so that 10% of the students overall grade is written (and/or oral) communication.  Keep in mind that this 10% is made up of much more than just the four district writing prompts.