Explaining mathematical thinking with pictures, numbers and words is how students make sense of mathematics. When we don't give our mathematicians time to put their investigations, discoveries, ideas and theories into words - we are just breeding formula memorizers instead of conceptual understanders. I know, I was a formula memorizer for many, many years. I always did well in math because of my good memory, but never truly had a strong number sense. It wasn't until I became a math teacher and began talking deeply about mathematical relationships, patterns and rules, that I finally understood why the formulas I had memorized - worked. I want my students to have the same understanding that I reached so late in life, so I try my best to incorporate inquiry, talk, and writing into our math class daily.
We need to give our students TIME to talk and write about their mathematical ideas. But TIME is what we always lack, isn't it? We have so many standards to cover and so little TIME. One solution that is working for me is quick, formative assessment, journal response prompts.
How do they work?
After each math lesson, find the journal prompt that best matches your daily learning target (or use a blank one at the end to create your own). This set of fractions journal response prompts contains 44 prompts that focus on unit fractions, comparisons, equivalence, mixed numbers, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, relationships, patterns, formulas and MORE. Each prompt is aligned to the Common Core standards (3rd-5th grades) and is marked with the actual standard in the corner.
Copy and slice out enough journal prompts for your entire class to attach to their math notebooks (or for a quicker option - print one and project it for your students to copy into their math notebooks). Send students off to work on the daily learning target with a purpose to focus their math practice. They can write their response during practice time (which saves TIME) or at the conclusion of math class to bring closure to your lesson. Lastly, give your students time to share their response with a partner to practice speaking and listening skills.
Best of all, you can collect (or spot check) math notebooks to inform your instruction, give grades, gather data, and discuss during math conferences and small groups. No longer will your students be able to hide in the corner during class and memorize formulas or fake understanding. They will be held accountable daily for understanding the learning target, responding, and sharing their response with a partner and the class.
I have found these journal prompts to be truly powerful. I'm so excited to share my fractions set with you (on sale through tomorrow) and plan to add many more sets to my store throughout the year so stay tuned!