Writing to enhance learning and inform teaching in mathematics

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Ellen Manson—Canadian International School (Hong Kong)

This action research reports on the introduction of journaling in mathematics with a cohort of year 6 students (10-year and 11-year olds) engaged in their final year of the Primary Years Programme (PYP), within a large International Baccalaureate (IB) World School in Hong Kong. The project, carried out during the 2011-2012 academic year, sought to respond to the question: Does journal writing in mathematics support students to articulate their thinking and develop their conceptual understandings, while also serving to better inform teachers in order to guide planning? Data was collected at the beginning, midpoint and end of the study from both participating teachers and a sample of participating students. This was accomplished through informal group discussions in response to open questions posed by the researcher. Samples of student journals were also collected throughout the study for analysis. While the research findings were generally very positive, some points to note include: students for whom English was a second language found writing in mathematics challenging, while some other more mathematically able students just wanted to “get on with the math” and viewed journaling as holding them up. In summary, the rationale for introducing journaling as an aspect of a mathematics programme is strong. All participating teachers agreed that challenging students to better articulate their thinking and conceptual understandings in mathematics, as documented in the PYP Mathematics scope and sequence, not only develops metacognitive skills but also leads to opportunities for further inquiry, an important aspect of the Primary Years Programme philosophy.

Executive summary (PDF, 591 KB)