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Teaching and Math Journals

            In the last two decades, teachers have shown an interest in teaching mathematics through the use of journals. Students should be able to communicate mathematically, both in written and oral forms, using mathematical vocabulary and notations. Math journals have become the new technique used to communicate in the written form by introducing problem solving strategies. Carolyn Moore (1995) believed that "Communication of math knowledge is vital." Children utilize their math journals to examine, express and keep track of the reasoning used to solve various problems. Through this type of communication students are free to think through their problems allowing them to describe the processes that they went through to arrive at a certain answer. The students are then able to explain how they arrived at the answer orally, but more importantly in a written form. This type of written response allows the teacher to see exactly where the difficulties (if any) transpire. Burns and Silbey (1999) stated that by reading the students journals, teachers can evaluate the progress and recognize the strengths and needs of the students. If the teacher finds an area of difficulty for the student, she can then suggest alternative actions for the student to take or perhaps she can continue to ask the student questions to get the student to think even more and arrive at an answer to their dilemma. The problem solving activities recorded by Beth Fuqua's class (1997/1998) illustrated that "when children have a purpose, they will gladly record how they solved a problem and share it with the class." The researcher has found that the students love to solve problems that have a personal impact on them. So far in this quest to research the effectiveness of journal writing in math, several articles were found that support their use and none that dismiss them. Each article explains that students who can elucidate in written words how to solve a problem must in fact be able to comprehend said problem.

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