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Tips on creating writing prompts and giving feedback

  • When introducing writing prompts, focus on how the writer connects with mathematics.  Beginning mathematics writers are more comfortable writing about themselves than the content itself.  Save prompts aimed at class activities, data, or theorems until later.
  • Help students develop their writing skills by giving very specific descriptive directions, but still giving them freedom to be creative.  For example, tell them to ‘include relevant diagrams and equations within the text of your memo, not just at the end’ or ‘use the superscript button on the font menu to make exponents.’ But don’t show examples in class because you will notice that your students come up with extremely similar ideas.   
  • Use the words how and why often.  These questions will be more thought-provoking than other questions.  Have them respond to such prompts as “Describe how you would…” or “Your friend Joey missed class.  Explain how to…”

  • Give specific feedback such as “your summary was concise, yet thorough” instead of “good job.”  Don’t judge spelling and grammar, and keep your comments positive.  Respond in the form of a question when it is appropriate; this both continues the dialogue between you and your students and forces them to think more deeply about the matter.  Be sure you look for their responses to your feedback!
  • At the end of a topic, chapter, or unit, require students to reflect on their progress.  Ask them “The test is tomorrow.  How do you think you will do and why?” or “Go back through the homework from this chapter.  Find a problem that you did incorrectly at first.  Explain what you did wrong and what you should have done or how you corrected your mistake.”
  • Be creative.  For example, ask them write a poem using math vocabulary. Tell them that they are a ‘graphic artist’ and their job is to combine graphs of polar coordinates to form a logo for a fictional club.  Or ask them to write freely about what a world without circles would be like.  Their responses will be clever and entertaining. 
  • Give students 10 or 15 minutes at the end of a class period to write.  Collect their writing, and return it the next class.  The last portion of a class sometimes is not productive otherwise, so giving them the opportunity to summarize the processes in their own words is helpful.

     

 

 

 

 

 

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