Doing the Math: Supporting Student Justifications

  • Doing the Math: Supporting Student Justifications

    Carolyn James, Lyn Philiben, and Molly Knievel
    When teachers consider the many sides of a task, they are better prepared to help students through future mathematically sticky problems.
    How can we get students to justify? We know that the benefits of justification are numerous: Teachers have found that engaging students in justification can help students deepen and retain mathematical knowledge, gain a greater sense of ownership over the material, and improve communication and representation skills (Staples, Bartlo, and Thanheiser 2012). Student engagement in a justification activity can also lead to more equitable learning outcomes among diverse student populations (Boaler and Staples 2008). However, enacting lessons that help support student justifications can be challenging. One difficulty in implementing such tasks is that they are inherently open-ended; it takes careful planning using multiple strategies to guide students toward the intended mathematical goal.