Reflective writing in math

Somehow there’s a disconnect between my writing expectations in math and what’s being turned in. For the subtracting integers portfolio which I’ve written about here and here I provided ample time, included both the criteria for success and rubric, plus discussed the reflection in class on multiple occasions. Either I’m not making my expectations clear or my students are not used to doing reflective writing that includes an analysis. I’m guessing it’s both so I created a graphic organizer to help them be more reflective and analytical.

First of all here’s the rubric the students are using:


And here’s an example that would benefit from a graphic organizer:

“In my portfolio I use multiple strategies. For the first thing we had to We had to use visual models you things certain ways to solve it. Such as -x -y or x-(-y). Then we had to use five positive numbers and negative to do this I first made a bunch of positive and negitive fives and just put it together and solve it and then I just made of a problem of -20+ positive 25 equals five.”

The student below is beginning to meet my expectations, though a revision using a graphic organizer will help provide specific evidence that’s currently missing.

“I can solve problems without giving up. What I used to help me was examples from the past worksheets that we did a while ago. … I can use math tools and explain what I use them. I used a number line as a math tool and I use this to show in understand my work. Kind of like a visual for me. I can work carefully and check my work.  I work carefully keeping my work organize and neat. I also check my work by doing the opposite of the problem and see if it kind of matches. It’s hard to explain…”

This Written reflection subtracting integers graphic organizer isn’t perfect, but I think it will help.  I’ve clarified and provided some examples of insightful analysis:


Using the graphic organizer, students now have a work space to brainstorm which of the eight math practices were utilized and how.

Image edited for space. Practices 5-8 are also listed on the graphic organizer, just not shown.

On Monday, I’ll share student work samples and ask the students to both critique and evaluate the reflections based on the rubric and graphic organizer.

I’ll update and report progress in my next post.



2 thoughts on “Reflective writing in math

  1. Have been working with my colleagues on rubrics over the past few weeks. We found some were harder to work with than others. Here are some of our ideas:

    We agreed that an odd number of performance levels is good for a rubric. We found that a 5-level was too much but a 3-level was good. We find it is easier for us as well as our students. We think about it as not yet, got it, excellent. We use this phrasing with our kids as well as red, yellow and green. Do you need to use the 5-level rubric?

    We have found that providing a rubric for the kids doesn’t work so well. They don’t understand the language and they don’t ‘own’ it. We have begun co-creating criteria with our students and it seems to be working better. It takes more time but then the kids know what the target is and understand the rubric.

    Often we do not use a description in each box of the rubric. We describe what success looks like and then leave three boxes empty for the 3 levels. Then, for teacher feedback, peer feedback or self-assessment, we simply put a checkmark in the box that matches the performance level.

    One other thing I was thinking about was that maybe responding to all 8 practices is too much for the kids. Just like assessing writing we don’t assess everything, it is just too much. So maybe you can let the kids know that you are looking for 3 of them and the kids respond to that.

    In my provincial math program of studies we have 7 process skills (communication, making connections, mental math and estimation, problem solving, reasoning, visualization and using technology) but it was too much to assess on an on-going basis. I incorporated all of them but chose 4 to assess all year long. I chose communication, making connections, problem solving and reasoning. It seemed to work quite well.

    Just a few of my thoughts. Perhaps there may be something there that will help you.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I need to take your advice. The graphic organizer was too much and the rubric’s wording isn’t owned by the student. That became clear when I began describing what insightful means. For the rubric, I have considered a three level scale, but I need to think about how to translate that into a grade for the times when I actually record a score in the grade book. You’ve given me a lot to chew on. Thanks.

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