Journal writing can be a valuable technique to further develop and enhance your mathematical thinking and communication skills in mathematics. Journal entries in mathematics provide opportunities for individuals to self-assess what they've learned. When one makes an entry into a math journal, it becomes a record of the experience received from the specific math exercise or problem-solving activity. The individual has to think about what he/she did in order to communicate it in writing; in so doing, one gains some valuable insight and feedback about the mathematical problem-solving process. The math no longer becomes a task whereby the individual simply follows the steps or rules of thumb. When a math journal entry is required as a follow up to the specific learning goal, one actually has to think about what was done and what was required to solve the specific math activity or problem. Math instructors also find that math journaling can be quite effective. When reading through the journal entries, a decision can be made to determine if further review is required. When an individual writes a math journal, they must reflect on what they have learned which becomes a great assessment technique for individuals and instructors.
If math journals are something new, you will want to use the following strategies to assist the implementation of this valuable writing activity.
- A journal should be written at the end of a math exercise.
- Journal entries should be in a separate book, one used specifically for mathematical thinking.
- Math journals should contain specific details about the areas of difficulties and areas of success.
- The math journal entries should take no more than 5-7 minutes.
- Math journals can be done with children and adults. Younger children will draw pictures of the concrete math problem they have explored.
- Math journals should not be done daily, it's more important to do math journals with new concepts in areas specifically related to growth in mathematical problem-solving.
- Be patient, math journaling takes time to learn. It is critical to understand that math journaling is an entry of the mathematical thinking processes.
There's no right or wrong way of thinking!
Math Journal Prompts to Get You Started
- I knew I was right when…
- If I missed____________ I would have to__________________.
- The thing you have to remember with this kind of problem is…
- Tips I would give a friend to solve this problem are…
- I wish I knew more about…
- How many times did you try to solve the problem? How did you finally solve it?
- Could you have found the answer by doing something different? What?
- What method did you use to solve this problem and why?
- Was this hard or easy? Why?
- Where else could you use this type of problem-solving?
- What would happen if you missed a step? Why?
- What other strategies could you use to solve this problem?
- Write 4 steps for somebody else that will be solving this problem.
- What would you like to do better next time?
- Were you frustrated with this problem? Why or why not?
- What decisions had to be made when solving this problem?
- What do you like about math? What don't you like about math?
- Is math your favorite subject? Why or why not?
"When one has to write about problem-solving strategies, it helps to clarify thinking. We will often discover solutions to problems when we write about the problem".
Another strategy that helps to retain math concepts and support understanding is knowing how to take great notes in math.