Our First Day with Math Journals

Today we tried out math journals for the first time.  I have several interests in trying journals with kindergarten students:

1) The Common Core State Standards in Mathematics includes a set of Standards for Mathematical Practice.  These are not specific skills or bits of knowledge students need to have, but habits of mind that are required to do rigorous mathematical work.  Math journals are particularly good tools for getting at those standards because they ask students to make sense of novel situations and explain their thinking clearly to others.

2) I am seeking authentic, engaging tasks for kindergartners beyond the games and exercises that are part of our math program.  How can I make math something students do rather than something that is done to them?

3) I am interested in documenting children's work, not only for assessment purposes, but as windows into their thinking that will in turn help me develop better lessons to deepen their learning.


So today we started.  Five students joined me on the rug while others played math games.  The scenario they worked with was:

Suppose you walked into the zoo and saw 8 legs in a cage.  

What animals could you be looking at?  

Students immediately thought of spiders and tarantulas, but when someone said chimpanzees, they quickly realized there could be more than one of a particular animal in the cage. .  . and they also realized that there could be more than one answer to the problem.


Equipped with markers and a fresh journal page, each student drew a cage (to organize their work--a key part of becoming a good mathematician) and then their animals.  As they finished, I challenged them to think about how to show their answer in numbers or words as well as in pictures.  Everyone demonstrated the ability to make sense of the problem and persevere in solving it, as well as to reason quantitatively to reach their solutions--the first two Standards for Mathematical Practice in the CCSS.  


There is so much more to say about each of these pieces--more than a blog can give justice to. I can hardly wait until tomorrow to see what the next set of students will do with this problem!  Here is today's students' work.  Choose "Read more" and click on any picture to start a slideshow that will show it in more detail.

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