Writing in is not something that many mathematics teachers think to incorporate in their teaching. However, communication is one of the major process standards of the NCTM Principles and Standards (2000) and is highly recommended for increased problem solving and reasoning skills. Through my own research, readings and practice, I have found the use of metacognitive journaling as a supplement to PBL, to be an extremely important aspect of my teaching and my students’ learning.
Metacognitive journaling has been found to enhance retention in mathematical learning when it is not done too frequently. I require that my students do one journal every week. However, I recommend that teachers new to Writing-to-Learn assignments do it once every other week, or even once a month. Research shows that metacognition creates depth in reflection, which increases self-regulation in learning for students. This is a slow process, but it happens over time with good feedback. The journals provide an excellent opportunity for feedback and dialog with students concerning their thoughts and thought process about problem solving. They can write their questions and you can respond. They often write what they think is correct and you can either ask why they think that way, and give a follow up question. However, it is important to know when to answer their questions and not frustsrate with too much eliciting of their ideas because too much metacognition can be overwhelming.
Many mathematics teachers are concerned about grading writing since the realm of objective assessment has always been reserved for teachers of the humanities. To see the rubric I have written for grading journals (and class contribution) click this link: Assessment Rubrics
Students often find it difficult to write journal entries as well so it is helpful to have models of other student writing. I have included some pdfs for you to utitlize in your classroom in order to show students what you may be looking for:
- Sample Journal Entry 1 (page 1 page 2)
- Sample Journal Entry 2
- Sample Journal Entry 3
- Sample Journal Entry 4
- (Handout for students)Keeping a Journal for Math Class
An excellent resource for anyone looking to read about journaling, grading student writing, or teaching Writing-to-Learn, is book by Candia Morgan entitled Writing Mathematically: The Discourse of Investigation. I hope to soon start a research study which looks at the connections of metacognitive journaling and student voice and agency withing the framework of the pedagogical theory that I use.