The Writing Process–in Math??

Yep, you read correctly.  We’ve been learning the writing process–mainly in regards to our work in Writers’ Workshop–but also in math!

A few years ago, when our school started working with Cathy Fosnot and Mathematics in the City, I learned about how many parallels there are between communicating in mathematics and communicating in most any other setting.  At the time it was kind of mind-blowing to think about how mathematicians revise and edit their work just like authors.  After hearing more, and thinking it through, and then trying it with kids, it made sense.

So…as with many other things I learned about with older kids, and protocols that I know work well with any age, we’re talking about the writing process in mathematics again.  In 2nd grade. 🙂

The first unit we worked through this year was about place value, and was related in many ways to money; this made sense to kiddos and helped them think through how to “trade” 1s for 10s, 10s for 100s and just how to make groups in different ways to “make” a number.

One day they were challenged to consider this story:

Screenshot 2015-10-08 20.37.03-minWith their elbow partner they were supposed to figure our the answer to that question: If Jerry has $1000 to share, with how many people could he share a $10 bill?

Kiddos worked for almost 2 math periods to figure out their answer (which was really the answer to the question of how many 10s are in 1000) and clearly share their thinking on a poster.  For many, the answer of how many people was easy, the way to share their ideas not so much.

As a means of helping them know when they were “finished,” we discussed these parameters for their work:

Screenshot 2015-10-08 18.51.45-minAfter we had our posters finished, we were ready for our gallery walk.  During a Gallery Walk, students put their posters out for other mathematicians to read and comment upon–with the goal of helping deepen mathematical thinking and help create more meaningful representations.  It works much like a writing celebration, which is a great connection because all of our kiddos know how to do that. 🙂

Before we were ready to start commenting on others’ work, we needed a review of how to make effective, meaningful notes on our friends’ work.  We sat for a quick refresher using this flipchart:

Screenshot 2015-10-08 18.51.56-minThen we practiced recognizing helpful comments that followed the guidelines.  I gave examples and non-examples, and then we modified the ones we have given a thumbs-down (which mean they were not specific, kind or math-related).

After that, we were off to work in our gallery walk.

IMG_5395-min IMG_5396-min IMG_5397-min IMG_5398-min

We did pretty great with our first walk of the year, and I’m sure kiddos brought their kindergarten and first grade knowledge with them to help as they shared their thoughts with other groups.  I was impressed with how questions were used and kids were specific with what parts didn’t make sense or that they thought others could improve upon.

After adding comments, partners were given a few minutes to review what others had shared.  In order to debrief and think about how to use this to help us next time, partners had to share out with the larger group one thing they would do to revise their poster to make it better (and ideally we’d have taken time to actually revise them, but we ran out of time!).  Next time we are ready for a math congress and gallery walk, we’ll definitely come back to this moment and remember what we learned. 🙂

I Speak Greek When I Teach Math–PART 3

Hopefully you’ve caught the first two parts of this story already.  If not, they are here and here.  🙂

After we had our cooking lesson, we got back into our groups to do a re-try of our posters.  Another thing that my friend Pam mentioned to me when we were talking about what could have gone wrong was that maybe the paper they were using was too big.  What?!  Something that simple?  It’s funny, because I hadn’t really considered that before she said it, but as soon as she did, it made perfect sense.  They only had a certain amount of information to share with other mathematicians, and many groups ended up with lots of white space they didn’t know what to do with.  Maybe it wasn’t a factor in our troubles, but it was worth taking a look at.  So as we started again, we used smaller posters. 🙂

We tried something else with this investigation, too–we invited another class (who didn’t know anything about our problem) to do our gallery walk with us.  This, we thought (ok, well I thought) would give us an even better idea of how we could revise our first drafts, since it was a “cold read” for them–they could only use the information we gave them to make sense of our mathematical ideas, rather than the context of the problem or background knowledge of the process.  So we invited Mrs. Hong’s class to work with us.  This was a PERFECT situation, because they had just finished a big problem, too, and needed someone to help them revise, too.  Match made in heaven, right?

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I mentioned in my last post that I’ve been thinking about incorporating more with cooking into math next year, and this whole trade-classrooms-and-do-a-gallery-walk thing is another idea my team is considering doing more of.  We want to be more purposeful in how we create real-life, meaningful scenarios for our kiddos to solve, then use the knowledge and ideas of each other to help make the work even better.  Seeing another version of a problem you’ve also solved is very different than looking at a poster that is completely new. The mathematician has a much bigger job to do for these new viewers; every word, number and symbol they write is a clue to help them figure out the puzzle.

So what have you done with posters, gallery walks or real-life problem solving in your class?  What advice do you have for us as we work to continue these ideas with our mathematicians for next year?  We’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂