Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Math: Explaining Your Thinking in Writing

How would you compare and contrast the math operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division in writing?

That's the challenge fifth graders are working on right now, and it's not easy.

I posed the challenge with a "sight bite" as noted in this past post. We chose a third grade audience as the group we are writing for. Together we planned the essay using a TIDE planner and identifying key vocabulary. Then students got started individually and in small groups.

As I watched students struggle to introduce the operations and demonstrate their similarities and differences, I was amazed at the variety of responses and their commitment to completing the task. That's when I sat down and drafted a sample which was challenging for me to do. Students edited my draft, and I made the corrections. I'm sure they'll be follow-up edits as well and I'm open to your suggestions.

This activity, though challenging, has prompted some great math talk and broadened everyone's ability to think about the math operations in new ways. Once we reach completion of the essays, I'll give students a chance to make the information come alive in the following ways:
  • adding illustrations made by Google draw, KidPix, by hand, or with other tools.
  • making a short video of the information.
  • animating the information by coding with SCRATCH or other tools.
  • making the information into a children's book or comic strip.
Teaching math concepts via essays is not the best way to relay a math concept. Animations, illustrations, and videos are actually more helpful. However, taking the time to analyze and communicate the concepts helps the learner understand the information with depth. Hence, this writing exercise has value.