Everything You Need to Know About Kindergarten Math Journals
Math journals are one of our favorite kindergarten activities. This class activity helps students become more fluent in mathematical thinking while having a great.
Teachers encourage students to use their math journals as a place for exploration and inquiry of mathematical concepts. It offers an opportunity for students spirally review math skills.
A kindergarten math journal will have simple math prompts that students can quickly answer. Many teachers use the kindergarten journal as an ongoing formative assessment.
What is a math journal?
Math journals are a perfect tool for students of all ability levels and age groups, providing a unique way to meet the needs of different learners. They can be used in kindergarten and first-grade classrooms as open-ended instruction that is flexible. This allows teachers to differentiate according to student need.
A math journal prompt can be used to reinforce understanding of mathematical processes or as a way to review previously taught math skills. Math journal benefits both instructor and student. There are many different pathways the brain takes while solving math problems.
Additionally, you can spirally review your math instruction by rotating the math journal prompts you decide to use. For example, you might be in an addition or subtraction unit of study, but your math journal prompt can be used to review geometric shapes or decomposing numbers.
Who should use math journals?
Um… everyone? Math journals are so versatile! They are tools that teachers can use to meet the needs of every student. Because they provide a multitude of opportunities for differentiating instruction, math journals are usable by all ages and skill levels. Math journaling can easily be modified based on how you want students to learn. Support and scaffolding can be offered as students encounter various unfamiliar math prompts.
How to introduce math journaling
At the beginning of the year, we start math journaling as a group activity. I model the skill and students gather around to follow along. We work on routines like how to add the prompt to the journal. We work on how to find the “next blank page.” We also talk about how to make sure their math journal response is visible. We don’t want to have to be Polly Pocket in order to see their response.
Typically, a math journal response includes writing or drawing. Students may label their illustrations in a way to make their thinking visible. Again, in the first few weeks when you introduce journaling you will want to model. Students may want to copy your example. I don’t worry about that very much. I know that as the weeks continue, students will have plenty of time to provide an independent math journal response that reflects their own understanding of the math concept.
I will return to modeling whenever I feel the whole group needs to kick it up a notch or if I introduce a new type of math journal prompt. In this way, students can once again benefit from modeling how to respond in their math journals.
How often do students write in math journals?
Students typically write in math journals 3-4 times a week. This rarely takes less than ten minutes. In fact, one time I actually timed us and it was closer to 7 minutes from carpet to completion. My math journal time goes something like this:
- Students are gathered at the carpet when I announce it is time to start math journals.
- My students are told to go to their desks and get their math journals out.
- Students are instructed to open their math journals to their next blank page.
- As students are doing this, I go to my folder to select the prompt I wish to use.
- As soon as I know which prompt I want to use, I start to read the prompt and students begin to respond, I start to cut the math prompt out and place the math prompt in the lid of each students’ crayon box.
- Then students glue the prompt into their math notebooks.
- I circulate around the room and support students as needed.
- On my final sweep of the room, I add a smiley face on the notebooks that are completed and students put them away.
Again, this is such a quick process.
Math journals help teachers identify misconceptions
Math journals are a great tool used by teachers in the classroom. They offer a glimpse into the thinking of a student and identify where additional instruction might be needed. They can also uncover misconceptions in students’ understanding.
Math journals can be used with any curriculum
Math journals can supplement any curriculum. Not only do they provide the opportunity for students to practice their math skills, but they can also be used by students to highlight v various strategies. Similar to number talks, math journals can create a record of a student’s mathematical reasoning skills.
Do students need to share their work with others?
Students should share their work with others. Sharing time is important for students and it encourages them to think and share their thoughts. There is power in having students explain their thinking to a partner.
You can add a quick partner pair-share prior to having students leave the carpet. This would require you to think ahead and pre-select your math journal prompt.
Additionally, you have students share their journal responses and thinking with a partner as you close math journal times.
How do I collect and assess math journals?
I have always had my students keep their math journals in their desks. They remove their journals and open them to their next blank pages during journaling time. However, from time to time, I like to assess what students know. I don’t do this for a grade, but rather an opportunity to see what they understand.
When I plan to assess, I want students to show me what they can do independently. So during the assessment portion, I have students sit apart from their peers so they are truly recording their own mathematical reasoning… AKA: not borrowing from their neighbor.
Make journaling a regular activity
Students should regularly journal to help them better understand math. This will provide a better understanding of the concepts that were taught and allow teachers to have a more in-depth look at their thoughts. The written responses give a glimpse inside the student’s thoughts and a historical record of how they have grown throughout the year.
Start math journals in your classroom!
Click below for journal prompts for kindergarten and first grade.
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