Reflection Journals in Math Class?

Image by:  Samana

In the past, I’ve used reflection journals for language arts assignments.  Allowing students to reflect via journaling was one way that I could informally assess whether students were making connections to the literature.  After utilizing the idea of journaling for my language arts class, I thought that it might be useful to integrate this strategy with math.  Before starting this adventure I decided to complete some homework on the idea of math journaling.   In the past I’ve used standard reflection sheets.  While collecting ideas, I also looked for math journal writing prompts and rubrics 1 2 3 .  I found many ideas and strategies for math journaling here and at Monica’s website. If you’re unsure of how to introduce the topic of math journaling, this Word example may help.  If you’re curious of where to start, I’ve found that this site provides terrific examples.  So, after researching a few options I decided to label all of my journals and prepare for uncharted territory.

After giving a unit assessment, I gave my first math writing prompt:

  • How do you feel about your performance on the last unit assessment?  
  • What type of math concepts do you find interesting?  Why?

Students were also asked to include a picture with their response.  Why a picture?  I thought that allowing students to draw a picture may portray how they feel regarding their performance.  Some students decided to draw more of a picture, while others decided to write more with words.  Allowing this type of flexibility gave students an opportunity to communicate their response to the writing prompts differently.  The students then turned in their journals and I wrote a short response to each individual response.  I feel as though the students really enjoy the fact that I personalize my response to each student. I also feel as though this builds a positive classroom environment, as each student is shown that their opinion is valued.  The journals can also be used during parent teacher conferences, although it might be a good idea to disclose this to the students before they write.

What happend?

After completing a plus/delta chart, students thoroughly agreed that the math journals enabled them to reflect on how they are doing in the class.  Some students even communicated that the journals were a way to set specific math goals.  Currently, I give students an opportunity to complete a journal entry approximately every two weeks.  A byproduct of using the journals may also lead to personal goal setting and more academic involvement from the student.

What’s next?

I would like to incorporate the idea of utilizing specific math vocabulary in the journals. Not only should the math journals be used for reflection, but they can also be used as another opportunity to practice mathematical concepts.  As an elementary school teacher, I think it’s important for students to have a solid understanding of math vocabulary at a young age.  Having consistent definitions is also important. Certain math vocabulary words that are utilized in first grade will accompany a student throughout their entire life.  For example: multiply, divide, sum, fraction, etc.  Overall, I feel that students will become better at understanding math vocabulary and reflect on their learning through the math journals.  The journals will be used consistenly, so students will observe the progress that they have personally achieved throughout the year.

29 thoughts on “Reflection Journals in Math Class?

  1. I had not thought of “reflection journals” for math class, but I am teaching a course this term which is expected to have a significant writing component. I might just swipe the idea if you don’t mind.

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  2. Hello. Your web page from your link to the rubics no longer exists. Do you know where else I can find math journal rubrics that are geared towards Reflection journals? Thanks!

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    • This coming up year, I plan on having students use their own blogs, instead of Google Slides. It will give them a larger audience and more purpose for having quality writing. It will also serve as a database where other students can read how their peers are articulating the math concepts we’re learning about.

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      • Good news! I’m glad that you found the post helpful.

        I’m currently in the process of transitioning to digital math journals. I’m a bit hesitant as I appreciate the concept of having an interactive component (many foldables) but would prefer the digital format . I guess students could take a picture of their work and upload it to their site. I’m looking forward to exploring this further over the summer.

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      • I’ve had them take a picture of their work. Sometimes it’s not the highest quality, so we have conversations about that. I couldn’t really see myself actually taking tons of notebooks home to grade, especially at the middle school level where I have several classes doing it. I need to bring more foldables back into our learning.

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