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Moving From The Oral To The Written In Math

by Aviva Dunsiger

Since I’m focusing on math as part of my Annual Learning Plan, I’m also involved in a pilot project in the school: using iPads to help increase communication in math. For one math period a day, I get a set of five iPads for my students to use. These Grade 6’s are using iMovie, ScreenChomp, ShowMe, and Educreations to explain their thinking in math, and their communication of ideas has definitely increased. There’s a new problem though: how do I transfer what they now do orally to a written form?

 When students have to write about how they solved a problem, many of them are still just sharing the answer. They might tell me what the answer means, but they’re not explaining how they got this answer. With the use of guiding questions, students are sharing more. If I sit down in a small group with them, and talk to them first about their solution, then they’re expanding on these ideas in writing, but this is not consistently happening independently.

Research and personal experience tell me that oral communication impacts on written communication, but I’m not seeing this carryover yet. Maybe I need to have the students first record and then listen back to their discussion before writing their answers. Possibly I need to overlap the oral and the written communication: having students write down part of their answer, and then expand on their ideas orally. Gradually, I can eliminate the oral component and just have the written one.

I wonder though if there’s more that I can do. How do you get students to move from orally communicating answers in math to communicating them in writing? How do you bridge the gap for students that struggle with these detailed written solutions?



Aviva Dunsiger taught Junior Kindergarten to Grade 2 for 11 years before moving to Grade 6 this year. She’s passionate about using technology in the classroom to support student learning, and she’s presented on this topic numerous times both online and offline.She enjoys maintaining her blog, Living Avivaloca: My Many Musings on Life and Learning. Aviva’s reflective writing about her professional practice inspires communication between educators, administrators and parents.  




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