Math Autobiography

Math Autobiographies

The start of the school year is coming up quickly.   Very soon schools across the country will be bustling with staff, students and parents.  I’m not setting up my classroom until mid August so I’ve prepped materials all this week.  During the past few weeks my RSS feed (R.I.P. Google Reader, hello Feedly) has been filling up with passionate posts related to goal setting. These posts have allowed me time to reflect on my classroom and put together a few initiatives for the fall.  One of my goals revolves around the concept of math reflections.

I’m always advocating for interdisciplinary units of study in the classroom, so incorporating student reflections is one way that I integrate math and language arts.  Even at the elementary level, student reflections have so much potential.  In fact, I worked with a group of first grade students last year on reflecting on our learning experiences near the end of the year.  As an introduction we started by talking about the words “My Mathematical Journey” that’s displayed on the outside of my classroom door.  We called it our “scrapbooking” time, as most of their parents had some form of a scrapbook and the idea connected to reflections.

My upper elementary classes already use math journals, but we haven’t delved into math autobiographies … yet.  Ideally, I’d like to have students create an autobiography of their mathematical journey so far.  While the journey hasn’t been long, it’s still worthwhile to discuss and reflect upon.   While researching a few options I came across these sites:

  • John Burk’s post – This post gives some practical questions to ask students when discussing students’ math experiences.  I actually started at this site and branched out to the sites below.
  • Algebra 1 Blog – This blog contains essay prompts with student replies.  This is a prime site if you’re looking for student examples, as there’s over 100 sample responses.
  • Math Autobiography Slideshare – I was thinking that this example might be one way to construct a math autobiography.  Adding pictures, narration, etc. might be a decent way to present a student’s math journey.  I found that this Prezi is also another method that could be used in the elementary classroom.

There are a lot of resources and examples available on the topic of math autobiographies. Most are geared towards middle school and beyond, most likely because of the writing component involved.  So, I’m going to use a few ideas from the above links to adapt the autobiography assignment for my students.

To start, I’m going to give my students a digital camera.  Why?  Similar to Matt Gomez, I believe the digital camera can be an amazing tech tool in the classroom.   Students will take pictures of themselves in different poses:  with math manipulatives, books, the classroom, etc.  I’ll print out the authentic pictures (hopefully in color) and students will write captions under each picture.  Students will place their own pictures and captions in their own math journal in chronological order.  I believe the photos can all be glued into each student’s math journal.  As the year progresses the students might want to add more photos and captions to extend their math autobiography.

In a few months I’m hoping to write a another blog post showing the results of this idea.

photo credit: This Year’s Love via photopin cc

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