Explaining Thinking in a Journal

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Students will be able to explain their thinking and division strategies in a math journal.

Big Idea

Children need an opportunity to communicate their math understanding in various ways. Journaling is a powerful tool for both the learner and the instructor.


10 minutes

The mini-lesson today is actually a review of the past two days.  The students have been working with the two different types of division (sharing and grouping) by packaging cookies (pretend of course!). 

As the students assemble, I put up a chart on the board with 3 columns labeled "Total Cookies, Cookies Per Package, and Number of Packages".  I then place a 10 in the total column and a 5 in the packages column. 

I ask students to turn and tell their partner how they would solve for the missing number.  After we share a few ideas, I have several students model their strategy using concrete referents (cubes and cups).  

Next, I remind students that there are always several ways to find a solution to a problem and that it is important to be able to explain our strategies.  

I fill the chart with various numbers and missing products or quotients and ask the partnerships to solve the problems and also write how they solved 3 of them.

Active Engagement

25 minutes

Students immediately move to their work spaces and begin to work out the problems.  Some students are still "dealing out" or creating models with cubes.  Some move to using known multiplication facts.

 You can see that these girls use several strategies to solve.  I was impressed they were able to use their understanding of arrays to help them solve this problem.

This student struggles to explain his thinking, saying "This is so hard".  When I simply ask him, "What did you do here", he was able to express himself.  Sometimes a simple listening ear helps.  I explain later to him to always ask himself that same question to help himself organize his thinking. You can see in the photo in the resources his final product. Really nice!

Wrap Up and Sharing

15 minutes

As students share their journaling, I listen carefully. Many times, they confuse themselves while presenting.  

The student in this video is the same child as the one in the active engagement section video. Both times she confuses what number is the equal group, and what number represents the groups. This alerts me to work with her a bit more in order to be sure she can see the difference between the two.