Student as author and critic of mathematics

I’m hoping to improve my students’ journal writing experiences this year. After learning about problem-based journal writing from the work of Joseph Mellor and Carmel Schettino, last year I created/stole a fancy handoutrubric, and told the kids to go write.

I was hopeful for more, but the kids ended up only writing one journal entry. This is totally a result of me assigning in the late in the year, yeah, but mainly because I was too lazy to actually read through them all. I pitifully underestimated how long it would take to read what was essentially 120 essays. English and history teachers out there, I can now finally appreciate your workload. I feel for you.

Fast forward to this year. I’m ready to step my game up. I’m primed to better position my kiddos as authors of mathematics. I tweaked the handout, rubric, and my introductory talk with kids about writing and why it is important — even in math class. Through the journals, they will be formally reflecting and thinking about their own mathematical thinking in a deep-ish sort of way. Just like with the Mathography, I’m pretty sure they’ve never done this before.

One of the key differences this year is that instead of me being the authority figure on providing feedback and grades (and putting this onus on myself for reading ALL those journals), I am forming six editorial boards in each class. Each board will be a yearlong grouping of students who will peer-review the journals.

I got this idea after I read The Art of Problem Posing by Stephen I. Brown and Marion I. Walter this summer. After they’re turned in, I will distribute 4-6 journals to each editorial board, who will use the rubric to do a blind-review (I will remove all names of journals) to discuss, assess, critique, and give feedback on the mathematical writing of the authors. I will have final say on all marks, but I will fully expect integrity, honesty, and fairness from the boards. And by reading through and analyzing so many of their classmates journals, I hope that their own mathematical writing gets better over the course of the year.

I’m really hopeful that they’ll get to write four journals over the course of the year. What’s really cool is that after each round of submissions, each editorial board will select one journal that they read to be published at the end of the year. By “published,” I mean featured in a compilation that I will print out in a little booklet in the spring. It’ll look and feel professional…like this one that I came across at TMCNYC this past summer from Ramon Garcia who teaches at Borough of Manhattan Community College Adult Learning Center:

By the end of the year, I want every student to get at least one journal entry published.

I’m not 100% confident in any of this, but I am very excited. At a minimum, I know it can’t be any worse than last year!




4 thoughts on “Student as author and critic of mathematics

  1. Can you imagine, 15-20 years down the line, how inspirational and empowering it would be for students in the Bronx to be reading and learning from a text about math that was written by a black or Hispanic author from the Bronx? Imagine the possibility of that person starting that dream off in your class by being asked to write about math. It’s an angle worth believing in, it’s a long-term manifestation of your aspirations and work with high school math journals. Keep going Brian!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ramon, your comment captured thoughts/feelings that I never knew that I always had when it comes to the math journal writing. I needed to read that to fully understand why I’m doing this. The work you did with your students at BMCC provided so much inspiration for this work. I LOVED hearing the story behind “We Broke it Down” at TMC, which helped me realize how to elevate my students’ thoughts and opinions of math in a very unique way. In fact, I would love to pick your brain about how you formatted the book.

      Also – I can’t wait to share the end result with you in the spring!!


  2. Pingback: Math journals and editorial boards, round 1 | lazy 0ch0

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