Math journals and editorial boards, round 1

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Back in October, I wrote about the ambitions I had for journal writing in my class this year. Well, this week the students submitted their first journal. And learning from last year, instead of trying to read 120 multiple-page journals myself, I formed editorial boards in each class where students would peer-review and critique the journals of another class.

How’d it go? Well, the journals themselves were awesome. I’ll have to upload a few at some point. It was obvious that some kids did a rush job, but the majority of them took it seriously and put thought into their reflections.

And everything else? Meh. I seriously underestimated the organizational nightmare of setting up a blind review of the journals. Because everybody knows everybody, I didn’t want the boards to have any impartiality when it comes to seeing a name at the top of the journal (they were all hand-written) and having to assign a grade. Consequently, I scanned the journals, blocked out the name of the author, and reprinted them for the boards to read and assess.

At the same time, I didn’t want the authors to know who reviewed their journal either. So that meant I had to scan the individual review/feedback sheets used by the boards (there was one peer journal), block out the names of the board members, and reprint them for the authors when I returned their journal.

Given the headache that was brought on from organizing this, I didn’t get a clear sense of whether or not the kids valued the process of writing the journals. I’ll have to survey them at some point after they’ve written a few. I’d like to think they appreciate them, but who knows. Plus, I think it’ll be easier for me next time around.

What was cool was that each board had to select 1-2 of the journals they reviewed for “publication.” I’m going to compile a bunch of journals throughout the course of the year into a little book and print it off in the spring.

When I handed the journals back, I publicly celebrated each of the students whose journals were being published in front of the class. They also got this swanky handout detailing next steps. It felt professional although it wasn’t. And it wasn’t the highest performing students whose journals got selected, either. Students who may not get to shine as much as others were spotlighted for their mathematical thinking and writing abilities. This was really, really nice. Best of all, this recognition wasn’t a result of their teacher cheezily trying to boost their morale. Their peers genuinely saw greatness in them and let them know by choosing their journal for publication.



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