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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Guest Post–Connecting Math and Writing

Today’s guest post comes from Stacy, an 8th grade English teacher, Stacy has written articles and blog posts for multiple online publications and has designed curriculum and assessments on nearly every subject for teachers and educational publishers. You can often find Stacy writing for TeacherLingo.com. As the mother of two, Stacy is also committed to learning ways to help her children learn and develop.
In school, subjects such as math and writing are often taught separately. However, writing in math class can be a powerful tool to help children learn. From reflective journals to creative stories, writing about math helps improve children' understanding of mathematical concepts and their own mathematical abilities.
Telling a Story
Turning basic skills such as addition and subtraction into stories can give children a way to recall those skills in other situations. Even if children cannot write well, they can draw and narrate stories to accompany math problems or dictate stories to an adult. For example, for the math problem 2+3=5, a student could write a story about two best friends who went apple picking. One picked two apples, the other picked three. Since they were friends they shared their apples, which gave them five apples.
Writing Poetry
Short rhymes are a good way to job children’ memory when it comes to recalling important equations, features of numbers or shapes or steps for solving a problem. Instead of coming up with rhymes for children, encourage them to come up with rhymes of their own. Children will practice writing rhymes, begin to understand poetic form and also learn important mathematic concepts.
What Are We Learning?
Having children write about what they are learning is a simple way to connect math and writing. This can be done individually or as a large group. Children can pretend they are writing a letter to someone as they discuss the basic math concepts they are learning and how they feel about the learning process. The process helps reinforce mathematic vocabulary and definitions of concepts while also helping children build their expository writing skills.
Having children regularly write in reflective math journals is another way for them to share what they have been learning while building writing skills. Children can use the journals to write about concepts they are having trouble with, set goals for math class or share what they think they are doing well.
Conducting Research
Children can also build their research skills in the mathematics classroom. Even children with basic writing skills can conduct research and present their findings in the form of a short paper, a slideshow presentation or a poster. Possible research topics include famous mathematicians, careers involving math and examples of real-life math.
Explaining their Work
Simply asking children to explain their work is another easy way to connect math and writing. The process of writing out a description of the process for solving a specific problem gives children a chance to practice writing about a sequence or process. It also reinforces the concepts they are learning by making them stop and think about the work they are doing.
Communication vs. Perfection
When it comes to connecting math and writing, the focus should be more on teaching children to communicate than teaching them to use proper grammar and how to spell words correctly. While you want to make sure children spell key terms correctly, you do not need to harp on other misspelled words, point out if children used your/you’re incorrectly or correct every fragment. If you get caught up in little details, the math may get lost in the process. When you connect math and writing, your goal should be to help children communicate about math through writing.

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