When I was in elementary school reading was reading, writing was writing, and math was math. Each subject area was very defined and limited to only one thing. Now it seems like one subject blurs into another. We have students writing about what they’re reading and reading about what they are writing. Math is a little more tricky. I regularly have my students write word problems, and I add written responses to many of my math tasks, but I’ve always felt like I could improve in this area. For about a year I tried different things and techniques, and I read everything I could about writing about math. Once I found a system that worked, I compiled everything into: Math Journal Prompts for the Third Grade Common Core Standards.
This is very different from anything I’ve ever made or used before, but I’m really excited to share with you some of the ideas from the journals. I know that when I first thought about math journals, I was very skeptical, because I always saw them as a lot of extra work without a significant benefit. However after spending a considerable amount of time researching writing about math, I learned that there are huge benefits to students regularly writing about math. I do want to point out that these journal prompts are not math word problems or multi step constructed response problems. I still teach those regularly, but this is a different approach to writing about math.
There are 100 math journal prompts that are specifically aligned to the third grade math. There is a list of all the journal prompts that are organized by standard, and there are at least three prompts for every standard. These can be used in any type of notebook: binders, spiral notebooks, composition notebooks, etc. If you use a notebook, students should write the title of the entry on the top of their page.
I originally used the math journals in a spiral notebook. I had students write the prompt at the top of the page. In the prompt below students had to answer the question, “What does multiplication mean to me?” While it may not be the most accurate answer, I loved reading it!
I also have labels to help save a little time. You can simply print the prompts on Avery labels and have students attach the prompt label to their journal.
There is also a full page printable for each math prompt. I’ve included two versions: one with the standard included and one without the standard. You can print these out and have students use one at a time or place them inside a 3-ring notebook. These could be used as homework, morning work, centers, or a regular part of your classroom routine.
One year, I sent the prompts to Best Value Copy where I had them printed and bound, so that my students can have books that are ready to go.
I love that fact that I get a clear insight to my students’ thinking with these prompts. They allow us to have deeper classroom discussions, and I have the opportunity to see common misconceptions about different concepts and ideas. I do not correct or grade any of the prompts. I continuously emphasize that the prompts are safe and students don’t need to worry about being wrong. The only real rule is that during our writing time, about 5-10 minutes, students must be writing the entire time. As long as students are writing, I’m happy. When we share the responses, I always try to select responses that have completely different viewpoints and turn those views into a class discussion, which is always powerful.