Math Journaling Success at Duval Charter School

Math Journal in School

My Think Through Math class is comprised of 50 fifth grade students. The majority of these students are working on the fifth-grade pathway but I have five students who have already begun their sixth-grade pathway.

Why Journal
The math journals are a specific place where students can put all of their notes. This keeps everything organized and in one place which creates a valuable reference for the students to use later on in case they forget how to solve a math problem.

Students are required to do one Think Through Math journal entry a week. To complete this journal entry, students must spend time reading and copying down the math help for at least one of the lessons they have worked that week. This ensures that students are taking the time to slow down and read the math help thoroughly which has proven to be a powerful teaching tool in class as well.

Weekly Journal Process
Every week students are expected to complete at least one journal entry. A rubric for the journal entries is inside the front cover of the journal so that they can always refer to their expectations. After completing a journal entry, they log the entry in the “Table of Contents” in the front of their notebook so that they can easily refer to it at a later date. Every journal entry includes the following:

– The title of the lesson
– The item number of the problem they are working
– Section 1: Copy down all of the information under “Help 1” in the “Guided Learning” portion of the lesson
– Section 2: Copy down all of the information under “Help 2”
– Section 3: This section is used for any scratch work the students need to do to solve the problem after consulting Help 1 and 2
– Section 4: The students have a choice when completing this section. They may either create their own “math helped” based on what they learned from Help 1 and 2. They can reflect on how the math help increased their understanding of the concept and why. Or they can copy down the “Correct Answer Feedback” that appears after they answer the question they were working on correctly.

Create a “Goals” Page
In addition to the journal entries, each journal has a “Goals” page. Every week students come up with a new goal either on their own or after consulting with me.

This goal can be anything that they feel they need to work on that week. For example, the number of lessons they want to pass that week, talking to the Think Through Math teacher more often, or a set amount of time they want to work on Think Through Math at home each day. When the goal has been accomplished they must indicate that they have met their goal in their journals.

How I Introduced Journaling to My Students
When I first introduced the journals to the students, I pulled up the “Guided Learning” section of a lesson on my own account and displayed it to the class. As a class, we went over each of the steps and expectations of a journal entry. I created my journal entry on a large piece of chart paper, which was later displayed on a wall in the classroom while they created the same entries on an example page in their own journals.

Creating our first entries together helped to eliminate any confusion they may have had about the journals and it made sure that every student always has an example of an accurate journal entry to refer to.

Student Perceptions on Math Journaling
At first, my students were not fans of the journal entries. They viewed it as tedious and many insisted that they did not need to look at the math help. I provided them with an area to store their journals in my classroom and unless a student was doing a journal entry during class, all of the journals were always there. Since then their perception has completely changed.

They actually enjoy copying down the math help, especially any pictures or diagrams. Also, as they progress through the Think Through Math lessons and the content becomes more and more challenging, the same students who originally complained that they did not need to look at the math help were doing multiple journal entries a week rather than the minimum requirement of one. They no longer keep their journals in the storage area I provided them with in the classroom simply because they want to keep the journals with them in case they need to refer to them or complete a journal entry outside of class. The journals are no longer viewed as an assignment they have to complete but rather as a helpful math tool, they are creating for themselves.

Journaling Benefits
I have seen so many benefits from their journaling in the classroom and on Think Through Math. Since they can work at their own pace, many students complete lessons on content that I have not yet taught. I have seen multiple students pull out their Think Through Math journals when working on classwork just so they can refer to an entry they did on the concept we are working on.

There have also been several occasions where I am teaching a concept and a student tells me they just did a lesson and journal entry on that concept and already understand how to do it because they had to consult the math help to do the entry. Journaling has also helped familiarize students with the benefits of using the math help Think Through Math provides them with. Therefore, instead of just guessing an answer to a question or asking me for help they go straight to the math help in their lesson and make an effort to understand the concept on their own. The confidence they gain from figuring out a difficult problem on their own through the math help and their journal entries are priceless.

Thoughts on Think Through Math
Think Through Math has proven to be a valuable resource in my classroom. I have seen huge gains in every single one of my students because it provides them with what they truly need whether that is enrichment through challenging concepts, remediation to fill in learning gaps, or simply an understanding of grade level material.

My students are filled with so much pride and confidence every time they progress through the program especially when it has helped them overcome something they had struggled with before. I would encourage every math teacher to utilize Think Through Math in their own classroom!

Ms. Victoria Bachmann from Duval Charter School at Flagler Center, Charter Schools USA, Florida