Writing in Math Class: How? (A 3 Part Series)

We heard you. At our presentation at the national Learning Disabilities Conference in January 2022, we were asked to address ‘writing in math.’ This is the first of three research/methodology article summaries we feel provide answers. Stay tuned!

Title: Writing in Math: A Disciplinary Literacy Approach
Authors: Brozo, W.G.; Crain, S.
Source: The Clearing House, Vol. 91, No. 1 & 7-13, 2018
Link: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318385200_Writing_in_Math_A_Disciplinary_Literacy_Approach

Abstract: Because math teachers often do not see the relevance of generic literacy strategies (strategies that help with reading and comprehension, such as summarizing, questioning, and making inferences) to math learning, they remain hesitant in adopting them. However, they are more likely to adopt discipline-specific literacy approaches, which are strategies that emerge directly from the math content and processes. A disciplinary literacy approach to writing in math requires teachers to link writing to mathematical processes, which would prompt students’ critical thinking and problem solving skills.

This article outlines a disciplinary literacy approach in the form of a template developed by a middle school teacher. When completed by students, the template and process help students reflect on their work and would provide teachers insight into their thought process. This type of disciplinary literacy strategy showcases how writing in a math classroom could be beneficial not only to students, but also to teachers. (See the template below)

Type of Study: Instructional Methodology for Incorporating Writing in Math

Participants/Strategies Included:; A five-step procedure for student use of the template includes: (1) stating what the problem is asking them to do, (2) developing a plan for solving it, (3) using the plan to solve the problem and noting their thinking as they work, (4) defending their method, and (5) expanding on their thinking (making connections to prior knowledge, considering alternative approaches, etc). Students then are asked to share their written explanations and rationales with other classmates for peer review and critique.

Implications: Disciplinary literacy approaches (such as the analyzed template) provide students with the necessary practice to develop the skills of reading/explaining problems, rationalizing steps, and defending selected problem-solving strategies. Writing in math should become a more accepted method of teaching because it will push students to learn math in a more elevated, creative, reflective, and effective way.

*Template Demonstration:

 *(Bozo & Crain, p. 9 – 11)

Problem: “Old McDonald is counting the number of chickens and pigs on his farm. Oddly, he decides to tally only the heads and legs of these animals. When he has finished, he has counted 30 heads and 70 legs. How many chickens and pigs does Old McDonald have?”

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