Friday, March 18, 2011

Math Writing Project Brainstorm

In keeping with the theme of reinforcing language skills in all classes, I have been brainstorming ways to implement a writing project in Geometry this year. The only real research/writing project I have ever assigned was a long time ago, and even though some of them had hated the idea of writing in a math class, I was adamant that they needed to be practicing research and writing skills in all classes -- including mine. I think it's about time to do another writing project with my current group of students, but I just need to figure out how.

A history teacher at our school recently did a scrapbook project, the results of which are beautiful and are on display at the library at the school. Here's the description of the project, as sent out by our awesome head librarian:
"After reading historical fiction novels, tenth grade Latin American History students crafted together scrapbooks that included a historical analysis of the novel, student artwork based on the novel, creative writing, documentary evidence, and literary analysis."

I went and took a peek at those projects. Each page was beautifully pop-uppy and 3-D, with tons of student writing to boot! Can we do something like this for math? Can I make my kids research about fractals, Pythagoras, or trigonometry (both the history and the modern applications) and to write about it and to illustrate their work? What if we made a single-issue Geometry magazine as a class? (I have at least one kid I know who is in Journalism and is supposed to be a good editor.) Would we have enough non-duplicate material to include in order to making this a success?

Thoughts? Have you ever done something like this in your classes?


  1. I have just been talking about including more writing as well as reading or art project in my math classes too. I'd like to plan one project per unit of either reading. writing, or art as a motivation to get work done in class so they can work on their projects.

    The only ideas I've had are to create a geometry scrapbook of all things we've studied in geometry at work in the real world, a paper about a famous mathematician, or a research paper on the how different culture/races contributed to the mathematics field.

  2. For the last couple of years, I have assigned a mathematician/scientist biography at the end of the year. I give them the option of either writing a paper (and I mean writing *by hand*) or making a poster. I have about 30 names, so each student in a class has a different subject.

    What I have learned is that most of my students can't write worth a darn. I have also learned that my students think I am stupid enough not to notice that they copied and pasted directly from wikipedia (one student even left the footers on the pages that she pasted onto the poster board).

    In spite of all of that, I do think it's a worthwhile project.

  3. I have my students create a portfolio for each chapter in Geometry. Part of the assignment is to write a short reflection of the chapter. At the end of the year, they have to present this portfolio to an adult for review. I also have my Pre-Calc and Calc students journal about each chapter, focusing on the big ideas of the chapter. It helps students review, and summarize as well as communicate mathematically. I also have students write a report or make a poster about the golden ratio in Alg. I do have problems with grammar and plagarism but it is still worthwhile. Students do remember doing these projects, and it fosters writing across the curriculum.