contributed by: Leah Childers
go back to category: Reading & Writing

Summary


Using online journals through a course management system to facilitate dialogue between students and teachers in order that students gain self-awareness about their attitude towards learning and doing mathematics.

Class information


I’ve used online journals in two different class at Benedictine College, a small Catholic liberal arts college: Mathematics for the Elementary School Teacher 1 and 2. Both courses are math content courses focusing on understanding the inner workings of elementary mathematics, not just procedural knowledge, in order to prepare pre-service elementary teachers. Class size is 20-25 students mostly freshman and sophomores. The class met 2 times a week over a 16-week semester. Many of the students self-reported having negative attitudes towards learning and doing mathematics.

Logistics


Online journals were assigned roughly 5 times throughout the semester. The assignment was introduced in class and completed online via a course management system. Students had a week to complete the journal. The reflective journals were expected to be well-written and at least 250-500 words. The in-class introduction to the journal takes just a minute or two, while the post discussion can take as much as 20 minutes.

Description of activity


Briefly introduce the journal and tell students it is available on the course management system. Examples of journal prompts that I have used:

Math Autobiography-- Please compose your autobiography as a mathematician, that is, as a learner and knower of mathematics. Go as far back in your own life as you can recall, and include information that you see as pertinent from both in-school and out-of-school experiences. You may wish to consider people and experiences that had strong effects on you, whether those effects were positive or negative. There is no length requirement for this assignment. I would expect at least 500 words. Proof read your autobiography before submitting it.

Can Some People Just Not Do Math?-- First read the following article: http://qz.com/139453/theres-one-key-difference-between-kids-who-excel-at-math-and-those-who-dont/ Then write a journal reflection (approximately 250 words) on what you read. Your answer should include if you think there are "math" people and "non-math" people. Be sure to justify your opinions and proof-read your reflection.

Common Core—(1) Read the Common Core standards for Grade 1 regarding operations: http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/1/OA/ (2) Read the following article in support of the Common Core: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/09/15/common-core-math-education-standards-fluency-column/15693531/ . (3) Read the following article against the Common Core: http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/22What-Parents-Rail-Against-Common-Core-Math-259363861.html (4) Write a 250-500 word response to your readings. It is okay if you are for or against these standards, but you should justify your opinion. Your answer should also include how you would respond to parents who are upset about common core.

Mental Math--Read the article here: https://medium.com/i-math/common-core-math-is-not-the-enemy-c05b68f46b3e - .xr2tnlluf Reflect on your reading including a discussion of pros and cons of teaching mental math strategies. I’m expecting at least 250 words. Be sure to proof-read your journal!

Deep Understanding--Watch the following u-tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ii0xJDVF8c8&list=PLEo7ej2RhHszJy_77UXC8GJpb8LtW-dJT&index=1 Write a reflection based on watching the short video. Some ideas to get you started: How does this discussion apply to you as a learner and doer of mathematics? How does this discussion apply to you as a future teacher? What did you find particularly interesting in the video? why? I'm expecting about 250 words, please proof-read your reflection!

Movement--Please read the article found here: http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/03/26/why-kids-need-to-move-touch-and-experience-to-learn/ Reflect on your thoughts about the article and include at least two examples how you could use movement in your classroom to teach content we have covered in our class so far. Please be sure to proof-read your reflection!

Making mistakes and questioning—Watch the following u-tube videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Txq-bsbbhaY&list=PLEo7ej2RhHszJy_77UXC8GJpb8LtW-dJT&index=2&nohtml5=False and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYh5S-VkUQQ&list=PLEo7ej2RhHszJy_77UXC8GJpb8LtW-dJT&index=3&nohtml5=False Write a reflection based on watching the short video. Some ideas to get you started: How does this discussion apply to you as a learner and doer of mathematics? How does this discussion apply to you as a future teacher? What did you find particularly interesting in the video? why? I'm expecting about 250 words, please proof-read your reflection!

Teacher bias--Read the article found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/upshot/how-elementary-school-teachers-biases-can-discourage-girls-from-math-and-science.html?smid=fb-share&_r=0&abt=0002&abg=0 Write a reflection based on the article and how you think this applies to your future role as a teacher. It is okay to disagree or agree with the article (or be somewhere in between) the important part is that you explain your opinions and back them up as much as possible. Your reflection should be around 250 words. Please be sure to proof-read and edit your work.

Reflection-- Please use this journal to reflect about your experiences with math this semester. Some ideas to get you started: 1) Have your attitudes/beliefs about mathematics changed this semester? What made them change? 2) How have the journals (in-class and blackboard) influenced your thinking about mathematics? 3) Do you feel more confident in your mathematics skills? Please use this time to do some self-reflection about you as a future mathematics teacher. You will represent mathematics to students at a very young age! I'm expecting about 250 words. You will be graded on whether your response is reflective and well-written.

Comments


I have found it important to introduce the journal in class to help students see how the journal fits into what we are learning, and even more importantly talk about their reactions after the journal is due and I’ve read their comments. I tend to function more as a moderator during these discussions, but will share my thoughts at times too. I change the journal topics from semester to semester based on the current students as well as current issues in mathematics education. I always assign the first two journals (or something very similar). In addition, I found it useful for grading purposes to have students cut and paste their work into the learning management system so that I didn't have to download a file to grade their reflection.

Background/Theory


It is well documented that students learn well by writing. In particular, having students write in a mathematics class gives students the opportunity to be assessed in a non-traditional way, which for many of my students is more comfortable than working mathematical problems.

Aims


The main goal of this activity is to encourage students to have a self-awareness about their feelings, attitudes, and beliefs related to learning and doing mathematics.

Feedback/Assessment


Many students report that the online journals changed how they thought about mathematics. They liked being able to communicate with me in a private written format and also enjoyed hearing what other students thought about the articles.