Saturday, September 5, 2015

Writing-The Math Strategy that Works

If you really want your students to remember those math concepts, there's one sure-fire way to get it done.....writing! By the way, this is true for any other subject too.
It's all about the brain, baby!

Why Does Writing Help Understanding ?      

1. The act of writing helps the brain take in, process, retain and retrieve information.

2. By writing, students gain comfort with, and success in understanding unfamiliar concepts, difficult material, and vocabulary related to subject matter.

3. Writing that is embeded into math (or the curriculum in general) helps the brain to focus attentively, boosts long-term memory, shows patterns and gives the brain time to reflect.

Why does this happen?

1. The fear of making mistakes in front of classmates is a big source of anxiety for kids, so it impacts learning. When writing individually that fear is taken away, and students can express their ideas without the fear that sometimes limits classroom participation. This happens because information must pass through the amygdala, which is an emotional filter for the brain. High stress impacts this part of the brain. In fact, when a student is under great stress the amygdala directs information to the lower reactive brain. Here the information is not retrievable because memories cannot be formed. The result---that math lesson just went down the drain, (actually, down the brain LOL).

2.  Writing relieves boredom. It helps to reduce the neural processing blockades that result when a student feels bored. Writing causes the student to be personally engaged and allows creativity of expression.

3.  Writing helps the brain to recognize, construct and extend patterns. When writing is used to make sense of graphic organizers, graphs and information, it gives the memory another pathway to understanding.

4. Writing helps to develop critical thinking skills while giving students the opportunity to include personal experience into writing. Including personal experience makes learning more meaningful.

What kinds of writing can be used?

1. Jounaling
2. Newspaper editorials
3. Math notebooks
4. Math autobiography...what has been your best/worst experiences with math?
5. One minute quickly write about a particular concept
6. Create a word problem
7. Write to ask/answer questions (sticky notes are good for this and fun to use)
8. Write creatively to explain math in new ways. For example use math poetry, math mad libs, math comics, or even make a math love letter from one number or operation to another
9. Write to inform others...write step-by-step strategies or description of math vocabulary
10. Write a letter about a math concept
11. Translate an equation into every-day language.

Need some writing prompts?

1. How are the numbers 20 and 200 alike? How are they different?
2. How many measurements describe you? (weight, shirt size etc.)
3. Explain how you could add 436 + 426 in your head.
4. Write a story problem that can not be solved because there is not enough information.
5. How do you use math in your life?
6. Describe money in your own words.
7. If you could be any number, what would it be?  Why?
8. Make an add promoting your favorite shape. Why should other people like it too? Write a poem about that shape.
9. Estimate how many kids are in your school. How do you go about making that estimate.
10. How do your parents use math?
11. In your own words, define parallel.
12. How do you know that 1/4 is less than 1/3?
13. What was the main idea in today's lesson?
14. What is a decimal?
15. What is multiplication?
16. When would you use multiplication (decimals, division etc.) in real life?

That's enough to get you started...let those creative juices flow! If you can think of another good prompt, please include it in the comments section!

Ideas for this post adapted from:
Education World