Unit 3: Developing Math Journals for Students

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Welcome to Unit 3!

Ideas for Developing Assessment Activities

In developing any form of assessment activity, Clarke identifies two questions that best help us to think about the assessment.

  1. Will this assessment give me the information about a student's mathematical understandings that I need and am looking for?
  2. Will this assessment significantly increase my workload in an unmanageable way?

In order to develop the most beneficial student assessment, teachers must consider these two questions very carefully. Through the careful consideration of these questions, the identification of the best method of assessment will be completed. Teachers should be certain to maintain the consistency of instruction through the proper development of a matching assessment. In many ways, assessment of practical activity can be a great way of measuring student understanding. Practical activities have been shown to increase the motivation and engagement of students, as well as their ability to transfer conceptual understandings and skills to outside contexts. This links directly back to the usage of mathematical projects completed with the use of a mathematical learning journal. In this method of assessment, student learning is more visible as well as their ability to use their mathematics literacy skills in understanding in communicating their processes and learning. Self-reflection and tracking of learning processes is considered a form of student self-assessment. A key style of assessment that shifts some of the responsibility of learning into the hands of the student.

Self-Assessment

The key characteristic of value to student self-assessment is that students have control and ownership of their learning. STudents need to understand the connections between instruction and assessment. In many ways, this shift in responsibility can help students to demystify the idea of assessment and better integrate their assessment results into their future learning. One method of this student self-assessment if the student mathematics learning journal.

Student Math Journals

There are many ways in which student learning journals can be developed and many purposes for which they can be later utilized. However so, the main purpose for the development of student learning journals is for routine, regular self-reflection. Students should be able to use their journals to write anything about their mathematics learning that they feel, think, or did. This should be about an opportunity to document both the processes of math and the understandings gained, as well as the opportunity to document emotions and feelings towards math. Sometimes the best aspect of the mathematics journal is for students to document frustrations as they encounter new ideas. The study of mathematics can be a struggle and can really affect a child with a poor attitude towards mathematics. By giving them an opportunity to candidly write about these frustrations and learn from them, with guidance of a teacher, students can better handle future problems in the study of mathematics.

There is no one way for a mathematics journal to look. In fact, the mathematics journal is best utilized whens students are able to choose the layout for their mathematics journals. Students should be given freedom to use their creativity and design a mathematics journal in way that they care about and want to use. This way, when they design their journals, the journals will be that much more meaningful to them. Though eliciting student thought with a prompt is a way of using mathematics journals, it is important to allow students to choose what past work and learning they want to include as they reflect on their own learning. This way they can select with purpose and meaning so that they can better draw connections over time themselves. Another reason that journals should be left up to children is that it is their opportunity to express and present their learning to others. The journals allow them to be the authority of learning and knowledge in a way that they choose. The journals cannot be done WRONG! Because the student owns and makes the journal they are able to present and write their reflections exactly as they are.

An important distinction to be made is that mathematics journals can be used in a variety of ways. One way would be to have students respond every week to a question. This could be any question that the teacher wishes to pose to the class. "What has been troubling you mos this week in math?" "What is one problem that was particularly difficult for you this week?" "What was the best thing that happened this week in math?" "What was one problem that you found particularly interesting this week?" All of these questions serve to get students thinking about what they learned, struggled with, encountered, and the processes behind them. When students beging to think about and reflect about their mathematics performance, they gain a broader, more metacognitive view of their learning as a whole.

A second option for the development of mathematics is one that can be responded to daily. Students can reflect each and every day on what they are learning in mathematics while also adding in their own views and feelings to the learning. A similar way of encouraging students to reflect is by providing them with questions or prompts if desired. Having a daily reflection prompt is just one way of stimulating thought and may be more or less appropriate depending on the developmental stage/level of students. Printing out a list of "go to" process prompts is just one way that teachers can do this. These process prompts can be anything from "Today I (did/learned)..." "What I know so far is..." "What I'm not sure about..." "What I want to explore more.." "What did you do in mathematics today?" "What did you learn in mathematics?" "Write down examples and questions that you encountered today. How did you feel about them?" The important distinction to be made here is that though students are writing each and every day, it is not necessary that each and every reflection is responded to or even assessed. In the next unit, we will talk more about the ways in which we can assess mathematics journals.

Reflection

Unit 3 Questions for Reflection

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Resources

  1. Clarke, D. (1997). Constructive assessment in mathematics: practical steps for classroom teachers. Berkley, CA: Key Curriculum Press.