Friday, June 28, 2013

Math Journal Writing and Blogs as an Assessment Tool

By Dawn Woods, RME Elementary Mathematics Coordinator 

Assessment is more than a test at the end of a unit to gauge learning; it is an integral component of classroom instruction (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2013). Not only does assessment provide information needed to adjust teaching and learning as they are happening, but it becomes a fundamental part of mathematics instruction, done for students instead of to students. However, it is important to consider that some students can produce correct answers on a test item but may not understand the solution or question behind it (Garfield, 1994). Therefore, classroom assessments should follow multiple approaches allowing students to showcase his or her strengths while focusing on how students think about mathematics.

According to Marilyn Burns, mathematics teachers gain a wealth of information by investigating the thinking behind students’ answers, not just when they are wrong but when they are correct (2005). One way to investigate the thinking behind students’ answers is by journal writing. Keeping a journal helps students to think about problem solving in a meaningful context while giving insights into their learning (Barlow & Drake, 2008). Open-ended journal writing enables students to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate the lesson thereby growing in mathematical achievement! Through writing prompts or open-ended questions, math journals can
  • Stretch students thinking. 
  • Help make sense of problems. 
  • Express feelings and thoughts about mathematics. 
  •  Reveal conceptual understanding. 
  • Personalize learning, and 
  • Evaluate progress and recognize strengths.
But why not put a technology twist on the traditional written math journals since technology plays an important role in everyday life of our digital native students? According to the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, technology is vital in teaching and learning mathematics (2008). Through the use of technology, mathematics education and assessment strategies could be transformed to seize the attention of today’s wired students. Through blogging students can
  • Post solutions to problems. 
  • Post mathematical insights. 
  • Post questions. 
  • Interact with peers and teachers through online discussions. 
  • Embellish online entries with sounds, video, and graphics, creating potential for project-based learning, and 
  • Nurture higher order thinking skills
To sum up, journal writing and math blogs provide an authentic, motivating, assessment tool, where students communicate and explain mathematical concepts through writing, taking ownership of mathematical ideas in a creative and meaningful way.

Resources to Get You Started

Writing in Mathematics Drake, J.M., & Barlow, A.T. (2008). Assessing students’ levels of understanding multiplication through problem writing. Teaching Children Mathematics, 14(5), 272-277.

Kawas, T. (2010). Writing in Mathematics. Retrieved June 24, 2013 from

Blogging in Mathematics Tubbs, J. (2007). Blogs in the Mathematics classroom. Retrieved June 24, 2013 from

Pyon, S.M. (2008). Why math blogs. Teaching Children Mathematics, 14(6), 331-335.


Barlow, A.T., & Drake, J.M. (2008). Assessing understanding through problem writing. Mathematics Teaching in the Middle School, 13(6), 326-332.

Burns, M. (2005). Looking at how students reason. Educational Leadership, 63(3), 26-31.

Garfield J. (1994). Beyond testing and grading: Using assessment to improve student learning. Journal of Statistics Education, 2(1). Retrieved June 24, 2013 from

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2013). The assessment principle. Retrieved June 24, 2013 from

National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2008). The role of technology in the teaching and learning of mathematics. Retrieved June 24, 2013 from

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