Math teachers have a variety of tools that can enhance the learning process. Technology, math manipulatives and problem-based learning activities can all play an important role in a math classroom. Regardless of the tools or strategies, one of the most powerful motivators that I’ve utilized over the past few years deals with the concept of reflection. Adults often learn by experiencing events and reflecting on them later. Generally the reflection lets us make better or more informed decisions in the future. Many educators blog, which I believe is one form of reflection. Allowing students opportunities to reflect on their math learning experiences, including celebrations and mistakes can be time that is well spent. A sense of ownership develops when students begin to understand that their success isn’t only dependent on the teacher or tools within the classroom, but on themselves as well. Reflection is especially powerful after making mistakes. By reflecting on math mistakes, whether they are procedural, formula issues, or simple errors, students become aware that mistakes are part of the learning process and shouldn’t be on the taboo list. How do we give students opportunities to reflect in math? Here are four possible ideas:
- Math Journals – This is a great way to gauge a student’s understanding of particular math concepts. I’m continuing to find that students are using their math journals to communicate their conceived strengths and personal concerns. Students are asked to reflect on their learning experiences in the journal through various journal prompts. I check the journals periodically and am able to provide feedback to individual students.
- Student Led Math Conferences – Throughout the year I have personal math conferences with the students. Students bring their formative assessments to the conference and the student reflects on their progress. We work together to find areas that need strengthening and write a personal goal related to specific academic concepts. Students may decide to bring their math journal to their math conference.
- Class Anchor Charts or Plus/Delta Chart – After a formative assessment or test the class may have a discussion about what problems on the assignment caused concerns. We then reflect on the processes used to find the answer and have a thorough discussion about the mathematical process.
- Blogging – Student blogs allow time to reflect on their mathematical process. Students can blog about how they solved a particular problem and what steps were needed. I find that blog explanations are especially useful when explaining solutions to problem-based learning activities. It’s also a stellar documentation tool. Keep in mind that the blogs may be public and not all students want to wave their mistakes in the air.
How do you encourage student reflections in math class?