Q&A #3394

Math and English Composition

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From: Claudia (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Apr 02, 2000 at 22:09:49
Subject: Re: Math and English Composition

I, too, believe that writing is extremely valuable to the mathematics
classroom. I have all kinds of things I use. In fact, I have two different
kinds of journal writings. I feel that it is important to read what I ask my
students to write about and give feedback.

One journal has 4 items:
1) What are you doing?
2) Why are you doing this?
3) How are you doing it? and
4) Feelings.

When I first started these, I got all types of materials other than
mathematics for #1,2 & 3. Things like, "I am doing a stupid assignment for a
mathematics teacher who thinks she is an English teacher" was common.

Another kind of journal I use is a reaction type. I give a statement and
have them write about it.  For example:  "A picture is worth a thousand
Relate this idea to graphing" or  "The set of Real numbers is like a family.
Explain how this family is set up, who are the parents, the grandparents, and
the siblings."

I mark incorrect spelling and grammar mistakes, but I do not take off points
for those errors. I want the students to feel encouraged in their attempts. I
usually assign 5-10 points for each journal writing. I generally deduct
if not enough MATHEMATICS content is discussed!

2) Foursomes- Create a problem with 4 options and the directions are which of
these does not belong and WHY?  For example:  (a) 1/2  (b) 6/8  (c) 5/4  (d)
4/5. A student might reply that 5/4 doesn't belong because it is an improper
fraction.  Another might say 6/8 because it is not reduced to lowest terms.
I am amazed at what students come up with that are great math ideas that I
hadn't intended when I created the question!

3) Give a partner assignment, where one student writes the steps and the
other must write a justification for each step. (i.e. solving a system of

4) Identities or Crises- this one is for the graphing calculator.  You get
the students to decide if a relationship is an identity (something which
yields the same (equal) result) or a crisis (some misunderstanding). For
example  (x+2)^2 and x^2 + 4. The student graphs the left side and the right
side as two separate graphs.  If they don't produce the same graph there is a
crisis and the student must explain what is wrong and in cases, with strong
ability students, I make them change the problem into an identity.  This is
great for lots of careless mistakes! In a similar way, I ask, how do you know
that (x+2)^2 does not equal x^2+4? on a test. The students want to tell me
that I made a typo but we know better!

5) Funny words called SNIGLETS- For example: "calculitis" is the feeling one
gets when one's calculator dies in the middle of a test! Students can be very
creative with these and math jokes!

 -Claudia, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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