Writing in Math

How often do you have students write in math? How often do you have them explain in writing how they solved a problem?

If you had asked me 15 years ago when I was in my 5th/6th classroom, my answer would have been…uh, not very often. But I’ve grown older and wiser over the years and I now see the importance and necessity of having your students write in math! While working with GT students recently, I had them explain in writing how they solved their math challenges, and I have carried on doing this with my tutoring students.  So buckle up and get ready to learn or review several ways you can use writing in math!

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 2.55.39 PMMath Exemplars

I love these, and have used them in my classroom, with GT students, and with tutoring students!  It is the perfect combination of math problem solving, critical thinking, reading, and writing!  The website has them for grades K-8, but you can use them for RtI or GT work, just go down or up a level.

When using these, I modeled and discussed HOW to read them. I basically wanted them to use Close Reading and really interact with the text.  I had them highlight what they felt was important for solving, and what they were being asked to figure out. This is important because often in the solving of word problems, students just look at the numbers and start using algorithms. I had to constantly take them back to what they had to find out and solve, and make sure they understood this. After they had solved the problem (or even not solved it!), they had to explain in writing (they could add pictures too) the process they used to solve it. Even my GT students had trouble with this so I could tell it this was something they had not been asked to do very often.  In fact, every student has such struggles with this, that I finally created templates for them to use, one for primary students, and one for intermediate students.  The next year, before I even had my students attempt to explain in writing, I used Educreations to record their explanation verbally, as well as their pictures on how they solved it. That proved to be a perfect stepping stone before moving them into the writing. Check out one of the 2nd-grade students’ videos explaining how they solved a problem from a past Noetic Math Contest.

 

Check out the progression of one of my tutoring student’s mah problem-solving explanations over a year’s time.  The first one was when he was in early third grade.

 

The next is from a recent Exemplar’s work: He is much more clear explaining and using his algorithms to explain how he solved this. Also, notice the close reading marks in the Exemplar text.

 

Math Roll-a-Word Problem Stories

TPT Brayden's Roll-a-Math-Word Problem

I had briefly mentioned these in a previous blog but would like to expand on them more as I think they are the perfect way to get kids not only doing some fun creative writing but using their math skills to solve problems, then explain in writing how they solved them.  The idea came from the popular roll-a-stories I had seen on Pinterest; I had tried them a few times with another tutoring student. Then during a tutoring session right before Christmas, I used a holiday-themed roll-a-story with the same student whose work is pictured above (A New Paint Set). We had been working on word problems for several weeks as he had shown that he was competent at math computation, but give him a word problem, he would not read it carefully and just go straight for the numbers, assuming he knew what to do. So after we had done our fun holiday roll-a-story, he said, “Why don’t we use a roll-a-word problem?  Voila…the idea was off and running, and I created one sheet to offer as a free product on Teachers Pay Teachers; has become my most popular product! (I’m a TpT newbie so don’t have many products yet!) Over the next several months he did several of these, and not only did his math skills at solving word problems improve, so did his writing skills!  Below are samples of the stories and word problems he created and the explanation on how he solved the math problem (the F-  on one of them did NOT come from me, it was part of his story 🙂

 

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Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 8.09.19 PMAfter we created a summer themed roll-a-word problem sheet, I came up with the idea of creating some for every seasons and holiday during the year! The result is my new  Teachers Pay Teachers product…Year-Round Math Roll-a-Problem Story sheets!

Included in the product are sheets for New Year’s, Winter, Spring, St. Patrick’s Day, End of School Year, Summer, 4th of July, Back to School, Autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Within many of the sheets are links to people and places for your students to learn more about before writing their story.  In addition, there is a blank sheet for you and your students to customize however you want. You will also receive a link to all of the sheets in Google Drive so you can make copies of them all and then revise and personalize as you wish!

Click here for the Year-Round Math Roll-a-Word Problem Story product!

If you use the roll-a-word story problem idea, send me samples of what your students create!

Math Roll-a-Word-Problem

TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS FREEBIE COMING UP!  KEEP READING! (How’s that for a shameless plug?) Plus, there are photos of my cats coming up, so that is a reason to continue reading!

Math story problems…word problems…whatever you want to call them, they were the bane of my childhood school years.  I was never that confident with math and would just get a math skill mastered when suddenly there were words with the numbers, which in my young mind, just confused everything!  Consequently, while working with my gifted students for the last four years of my teaching career, I made it a point to focus on word problems to help them build both problem solving and reading comprehension skills. In one of my recent blogs on Math and Growth Mindset, I discussed using math challenges such as Math Olympiad, Continental Math League, Exemplars and the Noetic Learning Math Contest, all of which contain excellent math word problems.  I learned how important it is to teach problem-solving strategies, and also to honor unique and unusual methods that students will come up with!

However, I had never thought of having my students WRITE word problems, but this idea dawned on me because of dice…yes, that is correct, DICE!  During this last year of tutoring, I had used something I found on Pinterest, a “Roll a Story” with my 6th-grade student who was working on writing.  A roll-a-story is a table that has different options for whatever the die lands on.  Here is an example of one on Teachers Pay Teachers, created by Ms.JordanReads – and check out her blog for more information on this resource and other fun dice activities!

original-286634-2So, I was working a quite a bit with my third-grade student, Brayden, on word problems.  He was great at math; he knew his computation skills and caught on quickly to new concepts. But something happened when he was given a word problem…he really just glanced at the numbers and then either added, multiplied, or whatever, to find the answer. He wasn’t reading the problem carefully to find out what the problem was asking him to find. So I had him using several strategies to help with this, including reading the problem at least two times (if not more) and highlighting and/or underlining important words, phrases, and numbers.  I always made him answer the question, “What is this problem asking you to do and find out?”

After using the roll-a-story for writing with the other student, I hit upon the idea of having Brayden help me create a MATH WORD PROBLEM Roll-a-Story as he actually loves to write (whoo hoo, we need more third grade boys who love to write!).  I first created a blank template, filled with a few ideas, and then had Brayden give me suggestions for the rest. (At the bottom of this blog you will find a link to these FREE resources on Teachers Pay Teachers!)

 

I then had Brayden roll his die, and he came up with: cowboy for the character, in a magic forest for the setting, getting the wrong homework for the problem in the story and multiplication for the math skill.  He launched right into his story, which turned out to be quite the fantasy!  I am waiting for Spielberg to option the film rights.  You can read his story HERE!

Brayden and I thought this was so much fun we wanted to share it with other teachers everywhere, and I decided this would be my very first product on Teachers Pay Teachers! I have even included a blank one, as well as a link to the editable versions in Google Drive (which I prefer!).  Teachers of intermediate and secondary students can use this by changing the operations to things like fractions, ratios, percent, algebraic equations, etc. If you try this with your students, please post some feedback for us!

Okay, click HERE for your TpT freebie of this Math Roll-a-Story Word Problem!

P.S. At another tutoring session, I used a word problem from THIS resource and modified it to be about Ms. Crazy Cat Lady (who may or may not be me). I included photos of my current and past cats. Brayden integrated this into another Roll-a-Story word problem and made it be the “homework” the dogs were not expecting. I had him work the problem and then explain in a short constructed response how he solved it! Check it out HERE!

fullsizeoutput_57abThat’s it for now…have fun dice rolling and creating math word problems!