Most of the time in math class is spent on numbers, symbols, and shapes. Not much time is spent on writing, aside from students explaining how they arrived at a solution to a problem. But writing can be a powerful vehicle for student learning in mathematics, and Linda Dacey, with Kathleen O’Connell Hopping and Rebeka Eston Salemi, has written a book about how to do it successfully.
“As we broaden our view of writing, in all its varied styles and stages, we can recognize the powerful effect it can have on our students’ learning as well as the joy it can bring to our classrooms.” –Linda Dacey
Linda, Kathleen, and Rebeka believe that writing in math class is essential. In their book Why Write in Math Class? K–5, they show us how writing contributes to the learning of students while providing a variety of options for incorporating it into your math instruction. Here’s what they have to say about why writing in math class is important and what it looks like in the classroom.
Why Do We Want Our Students to Write in Math Class?
We often hear about how much joy math talk has brought to teachers’ classrooms, how it has increased students’ understanding, helped students learn that mathematical tasks can be approached in many ways, and provided teachers with important insights into students’ thinking. “I believe it is time for writing in math to join talking in math as an important communication strategy for developing, deepening, and assessing mathematical understanding,” (Dacey 2018). Writing in math class can help students:
- prepare for a discussion,
- brainstorm what they notice and wonder,
- make connections among multiple representations of ideas,
- explain their thinking,
- clarify their understanding of ideas,
- develop their reasoning skills,
- learn from their mistakes,
- note changes in their thinking over time,
- explore ideas creatively, and
- reflect on their thinking.
“Students intuitively recognize the value of writing in math. It makes sense to connect the two. We should build on their natural inclinations to deepen their understanding and their joy of learning mathematics,” (Dacey 2018).
What Does Writing in Math Class Look Like?
Writing can help develop and document ideas. But what constitutes writing? Do simple recordings, graphs, tables, doodles, and so forth meet the criteria for writing in math class? Dacey would say firmly, “Yes, they do!” Determining what is considered writing becomes particularly important when we think about our younger students as they are emerging writers, and we want to honor their journey. We must support and applaud their early attempts, so young children can grow as writers as well as mathematicians. Encouraging and honoring such depictions in the intermediate is just as critical.
“Making drawings, exploring connections among representations, and jotting questions and notes in formats that make sense to students are necessary components of making meaning and should be celebrated at all levels of learning. As we broaden our view of writing, in all its varied styles and stages, we can recognize the powerful effect it can have on our students’ learning as well as the joy it can bring to our classrooms,” (Dacey 2018).
To learn more about the importance of adding writing to your math instruction and how to do it, pick up a copy of Why Write in Math Class?
Dacey, Linda with Kathleen O’Connell Hopping and Rebeka Eston Salemi. 2018. Why Write in Math Class? K–5. Portsmouth, NH. Stenhouse Publishers.