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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Math Journals

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I utilized math journals last year with my first graders and would like to continue using them for the upcoming school year. I used them once a week and would have my students solve a challenging problem that focused on the current unit’s topic. Many of the problems had more than one answer or several possible answers, and students were responsible for showing and explaining their reasoning. I am looking for some new ideas and suggestions on how other teachers use math journals in the classroom. How often do you use math journals? What do you have them work on in their math journals? Do you have any resources, such as books or websites that you would recommend for ideas?

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Laurie Kelly's picture
Laurie Kelly
Second grade teacher in a Title I school

It's really good that you have students explaining their thinking on their own approach to solving a problem. That metacognitive exercise is motivating and assists comprehension. Math journals can be used daily for class work in place of using worksheets (saving on the passing out and collecting of paper), but most of all as a place to take notes and take home to assist them with math homework. As you do your direct instruction, students can copy the steps for algorithms or other important information they'll need later. You can provide important charts, graphs, tables, and other resources for them to glue into their journals (sideways, folded). The children can work in groups to solve problems, recording their solutions in their journals and choosing someone to report back to the class. You can circulate and check the class work they've done in their journals on the spot for immediate feedback. Collect journals weekly to record the grades (better than collect worksheets daily to grade and return). Math journals are great!

Jessica's picture
Building Confidence in Students, One Child at a Time

Math journals is a great resource. But sometimes it become so confusing that they are of no help. In that case math is really needed to be learned by setting up examples and breaking the formulas in a simpler form.


Laurie Kelly's picture
Laurie Kelly
Second grade teacher in a Title I school

Not only are students more likely to complete math homework using their journals at home, they also are more likely to take notes during class on operation examples and algorithms. There's less dependency on help at home. Math homework should be independent practice of concepts already learned.
Since my students sit in teams, they earn team points when everyone does their homework. Peer pressure works wonders. I know that recess is important to physical and social development, so I don't take it away to do homework.

Jessica's picture
Building Confidence in Students, One Child at a Time

As per my suggestion, using maths journal is beneficial.Teachers can make the use of math journals by using websites, tables, etc; for the purpose of educating the students and helping them in solving their math problems.

Thank you once again..:)

Christie Burns's picture
Christie Burns
kindergarten teacher, Title I school, Gulf Coast of Texas

I teach in a Title I school on the Gulf Coast of Texas. This year my team just added math journals. My colleague recommended "Daily Math Journals" from the blog
You can get a freebie to try out. The prompts are little strips to cut & paste into the journal. Each page has enough strips for the class. Students start with drawing simple representations and move into solving problems. We have been using these a month and I am already seeing a new way of thinking about math and positive student results.

Sarah's picture
Special Education Co-Teacher for Math and Reading

At my school we have interactive notebooks for content areas. The students begin by reserving the first 10 pages or so for their table of contents. Each page is numbered and each page has a title. For example, we recently took interactive notes on adding and subtracting decimals. Pages on the right side are for teacher notes and pages on the left side are for student work. The teacher may give notes via the ActivBoard for students to copy or printed notes may also be cut and pasted into the notebooks. Before the teacher goes over the notes or introduces the new content, the students use a highligter to mark words they think are important or they may draw clouds around words or phrases they have questions about. The left side will then be used for the students to practice the skill they just learned. The interactive notebooks are a very useful tool for staying organized and for taking home as a study aid.

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