Math- to write or not to write?

 “Math and writing, like oil and water, seemed to have little in common.” ~Marilyn Burnsoil-water-immiscible_46d45cfae26322d3

Last week I presented on a topic that I, as a math teacher, finally figured out a few years ago.  When I had my own classroom, I was sent to a few writing workshops.  I usually entered any workshop/presentation with hope of coming out with one idea.  Luckily, the Write From The Beginning program was just what I needed to get a spark of an idea.

My middle school had been integrating performance tasks into our curriculum for quite sometime, however some of them always seemed incomplete.  Something more was missing.  It took a few trial and errors, but I started my students writing a few paragraphs on what they did.  I used the writing prompt “John Smith was absent yesterday.  Explain to him the activity and what we did.”   For an Angry Birds parabola project (teaching Algebra), I had them compare and contrast each of the methods used to find out the birds’ flight paths.  Students wrote 6- 8 paragraph essays—-IN ALGEBRA!  It was very successful!

A fourth grade teacher approached me a few months ago with the same issue.  She wanted to tackle writing in math.  I told her what I had done in my classroom and we planned ahead.  We started with a performance task (Stone%20Soup) and created a writing prompt to go with it.  After weeks of planning, I finally got to see it in action.

After watching a video about Stone Soup and reading through the performance task, the students got to work immediately.   The teacher, Mrs. P, had the students do all their brainstorming and work on a sheet.  It was there that they showed all the work and mapped out their thinking.

Once they finished and shared their work about question one, we all worked through the rest of the questions.   Not knowing how to show the work for all the veggies, I stepped into help.  We came up with a grid to show the total number of green onions, chopped meat, and baby carrots.



From there, the teacher had the students do a writing prompt.  She asked the students to write their own version of Stone Soup.  What ingredients would they include to serve Mrs. P’s class of 30 people?  The students were really engaged in this part.  She got all the students to plan out on their Thinking Maps.  The students wrote these creative stories involving some expected ingredients and also some unexpected ingredients.

During our debrief of the whole experience, Mrs. P kept saying, “WOW.”  I asked her if this was a good or a bad wow.  She exclaimed, “A good wow”.  She explained how she kept wanting to quit, but something in her told her to persevere.  And she was so happy she did.  Mrs. P couldn’t believe that she covered reading, writing, and math all in one assignment.  It was incredible.

In a future post…I’ll explain the different types of writing I’ve tried out in classrooms and what my thoughts are on writing.


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