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Fifth Grade Math Journal

Instructor: Eric Campos

Eric has tutored in English, writing, history, and other subjects.

Math journals are great tools for students to record math skills and activities that they can refer to later as they prepare for tests. Learn about ways you can use the math journal in the 5th grade classroom.

Power In Prompts

The key to successfully applying the math journal in your class is through prompts. You'll want prompts that will engage your students to explore new math skills while reflecting on how they are processing the information taught in class. Let's look at these examples:

  • Prompt 1: An individual solved the expression 3{5(10+5 (500- 100) + 340)} with an answer of 36, 135. Was the individual correct? Explain your answer and show work.
  • Prompt 2: Which number is greater 4.5 or 4.23? Explain your reasoning
  • Prompt 3: Two students are told to round 2.467 to the nearest hundredth. Student A's answer is 2.47 while student B's is 2.5. Which student is correct? Explain your answer.

You'll see in the prompts above that they usually have two elements. First it presents a mathematical question or exercise that a student must solve: a practice problem. In addition to solving the problem though, the student is asked to explain how they got the answer. This is very important to note. The students must list the steps and explain the reasoning that led them to their answer. This will demonstrate that they know the correct problem-solving method, or that there is a flaw in their process or understanding. By identifying where they went wrong, students can then learn the correct mathematical procedure. The math journal allows them to write down the correct answers and procedures and notate where they went wrong in order to improve for the next problem.

Learning Through Reflection

Another kind of math journal prompt you can assign is a prompt that's reflective in nature. Reflective prompts don't involve mathematical problems directly but seek to address the individual student's learning experience. These prompts can ask the students what their goals or struggles are in the course, or even how they have improved their skills. Here are some additional prompts:

  • Prompt 1: I got this problem right because:
  • Prompt 2: Today I learned:
  • Prompt 3: I knew this problem was right because:

Responses to such prompts can indicate how well your students are receiving information in class, therefore helping you grasp how effective your instruction is. It can also be a chance for students to feel affirmation about their learning progress, like with prompt 3. Like the other set of prompts, reflective prompts are very versatile with topics.

Teaching Resources

As you begin incorporating math journal sessions into your fifth grade lesson plans, it may be helpful to review 5th grade math curricula and teaching strategies. 5th Grade Math: Practice & Review will give you a broad overview of fifth grade math topics and ideas on how to teach them in lessons. A good resource to follow up with is Teaching Math: Methods & Strategies. This lesson provides a detailed look at different teaching strategies and ways you can assess your students' progress. The goal of this piece is to get you thinking about how you as the instructor can effectively communicate with and engage the classroom.

Another resource available is Using Math in Everyday Life, which discusses practical applications for math outside of the classroom. This is something you can bring back into the classroom by using it for interesting new math journal ideas!

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