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How a Personal Math Diary Can Scaffold Their Learning

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by Neil Finney

How a Personal Math Diary Can Scaffold Their LearningStudents love to have a place of their own to write and draw. Why not give it to them? A personal math diary offers a chance for students to record things about math that will support them during your math instruction and problem-solving lessons. By having access to their own notes and drawings, they are using a ‘scaffold’ approach – the diary is the knowledge foundation, from which, new learning can take place.

 Tip From a Mentor – Give students the opportunity to decorate and personalize the outside covers. This activity will increase the likelihood that they will form a personal connection to their diary – since they have invested their own time in making it ‘cool’ to them.

 

Here are some of the ways students can use their personal math diary:

1. Writing Formulas – Rather than focusing on memorization tasks, give students the formulas in their diaries; so they can focus on the strategies needed to solve a problem. Rich mathematical conversations are more likely to take place when they are presented with higher-order thinking problems – and not just focused on formula writing.

2. Reminders and Tips – During your lessons, students could make notes in their diaries about math conversations and class discussions that help to reinforce concepts and ideas.

Tip From a Mentor – Have students choose a creative way to write tips, so they stand out on the page. Whether it is in a speech balloon, cloud or giant star, this will help to organize the kinds of things they include in their diary.

3. Sample Problems – As a way of providing students with a model in the diary, sample problems will improve confidence and risk-taking in their learning. Rather than starting with a blank page when a new problem is assigned, students have a direct support that they can work from in attempting new assignments.

4. Sketches and Diagrams – In the course of a lesson or activity, there may be things that are better drawn than written about – include them! As a visual way or recording information, these drawings can support learning in a different way.  

Tip From a Mentor – Have students choose a creative way to write tips, so they stand out on the page. Whether it is in a speech balloon, cloud or giant star, this will help to organize the kinds of things they include in their diary.

Teaching students how to use a tool, such as a personal math diary, to improve their understanding of math is a valuable lesson. Through the use of prior knowledge, sample problems and a personal connection to the book, students can be successful in approaching new problems with a variety of strategies.

 

Share your teaching with us. Do you have photos of student math diaries from your class? Make them a part of this conversation and show off your practice here.

OR

How could we use personal math diaries to promote mathematical conversations between students and support their learning?

 

 
Neil

During Neilʼs 10 years of teaching experience, he has taught in London, England; Ontario; public and private schools; elementary and secondary; junior; intermediate; core french; developmental skills; and junior gifted (grades 4,5,6). He is a Reading Specialist that has been incorporating technology in his practice consistently throughout his career. Neil has recently published his first book entitled “Ignite. Incite. Inspire.” – Examining 21st Century Issues in Education, which is a collection of teaching articles and posts written from January to December 2011.

 

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