>Could you share some of your ideas for journal entries with us? I didn't try that this year, but I can see the value of doing it?especially in the "planning a study" and descriptive statistics parts of the course
Everybody uses a journal in different ways. I use it for independent work which is not part of the course syllabus. I usually have two sections:
Questions which I specifically assign. They vary tremendously but often include:
a) Writing a few paragraphs or a page or two on an article I hand out. It might involve topics of interest - for example when there were articles on the proof of Fermats, I gave my precalculus class one from the newspaper and one from a general mathematics journal and asked them to compare and contrast what they learned from the articles. Perhaps in statistics I might give them an article or two on the DNA testing in the OJ trail and ask them to think of questions they might ask as a juror to an DNA expert now that they know a little statistics.
I have discovered speaker and audience" is very important in my writing assignments. I try to always identify who they are writing as (e.g. a statistics student, a juror, etc.) and who the audience is (e.g. the DNA expert, their parents, a 10th grade Geometry class).
b) Working through some interesting mathematics. Frequently I find or we find an interesting question during class but I do not want to take the time to fully flush it out - for example the Lim sin(x)/x as x->0 has different values if x is in degrees rather than radians. I might ask them to try to explain why. In AP Statistics it might be a proof of some of the theorems which are not a formal part of the AP syllabus. Frequently the questions appear as we look at very fine points in homework problems. I often stop the discussion after a couple of student attempts to flush it out and say this is now a journal question.
Their personal section. It should include work on some technical areas of the course they find interesting. These are often challenge problems, questions which are raised in class which I might point out are areas for optional further study, or simply topics which the student started working on during homework and took beyond the assignment. It should also include some "personal" stuff. How do they feel about the course, their feelings about the material of the course, and/or how they are feeling about their own mathematical ability, ....
-------------- Section I usually has about 6-8 questions per half a year and section II has to be significant enough so that I can give it credit. My grading here is very open ended. Serious work gets full credit, while half-hearted work gets half-credit. From time to time there is a question with very short answers which is correct or incorrect, but usually the questions have no one right answer. Journal might count 10% of the term grade and grades usually range from 50% - 100%.
Hope this helps. How do the rest of you use journals?
Albert Coons Chair, Instructional Technology Committee Mathematics Department Buckingham Browne & Nichols School Cambridge, MA (617) 547-6100 AlCoons@aol.com