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Journals in Math

September 2, 2013

Last year the British Columbia Association of Mathematics Teachers (BCAMT) published, Questions Worth Asking which is a collection of stories from educators across British Columbia. Each of these stories ends with some questions for educators to consider in their practice. Three chapters are available on-line to preview. Reading a chapter and discussing as a department was great professional development and an endeavour I would encourage others to try. In fact one of these stories and the subsequent questions was the starting point for a year-long initiative by our middle school math department.

As a strong believer in different learning styles,  I love to talk things over and process my thoughts verbally. I also find pictures, diagrams and sketches a great way to think through problems and explain my thinking. Everyone is different and I realize what works for me may not work for everyone. The article in Questions Worth Asking reinforced my belief that Journals can be one way of recording student thinking in mathematics. Last year our middle school math department started to used journals to varying degrees in their classes. Ie enjoyed reading student thinking about mathematics. In many cases students demonstrated a depth of understanding which was fantastic to see. In other cases students had misconceptions that may not have been shared in a classroom discussion.

This year I hope to increase the use of journals and plan to move to alternate forms such as voice, blogs and on-line forums. The chance to “bounce ideas off each other” is an opportunity I think I missed last year with journals being shared between student and teacher. A chance for dialogue between student and student can be powerful in an environment where students take risks. Some of the tools we will use in this regard include Moodle, Vocaroo, iMovie and Google Docs to name a few.

Stay tuned to see how the experiment progresses.

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