Writing about and explaining math thinking is REALLY challenging. Students in the intermediate grades aren’t used to taking their ideas and transferring them to paper when it comes to complex ideas! If you have asked students to “explain their thinking” about a solution, you may have noticed them writing things like:
“First I took the 64 and the 49 and I added them. Then I took the rest away.” or
“I could tell it looked like about a half so I wrote that.” OR my personal favorite…
“I just knew it in my head.” (You’ve heard this, right? It’s not just me?)
What do the Standards for Mathematical Practice Say?
The Standards for Mathematical Practice and other rigorous math standards have made it clear that we need our students to get better at explaining their thinking and critiquing the reasoning of others (and themselves!). The standards mention things like, “make conjectures and build a logical progression of statements” and “justify their conclusions” and “communicate them to others” and more. So how do we get our students to dig deeper and explain their thinking more clearly? (Want to see how I help my students understand these standards? Just CLICK HERE.)
Today I presented my students with one of the fraction challenges in my fraction unit to see a few things–one, if they had internalized an important fraction concept we had been working on and, two, how they were doing with their “explaining their thinking”.
I learned a few things! First of all–almost ALL students got the right answer! #boom
Secondly, our written explanations were in dire need of some work!
I thought I’d share with you my next steps–because I REALLY want to see my students make gains in this area…and stay tuned over the next weeks for an update!