What is a math journal?

A math journal is a workbook that a primary or elementary school student maintains to document his or her progress in mathematics throughout the school year. Math journals can contain solved math problems, writings, or illustrations to represent a variety of different mathematics skills acquired and applied during the course of a semester or academic year.

We personally like to apply the concept of Mathbooking – a creative outlet that mixes the analytical problem solving skills of mathematics with the creative fun of scrapbooking. By using a math journal as a “math scrapbook” a child can have a fun and engaging time learning mathematics.

Math journals can make for handy and effective classroom resources. Here are five reasons why:

1. Math journals make for a great way to begin a math lesson

Using math journals in the classroomSometimes, the transition between subjects in an elementary school classroom can be difficult. Using math journals in the classroom can help you to eliminate the stress involved with making a transition from subject to subject. You can prepare for a math lesson by having introductory math journal prompts already printed and cut out, ready to distribute to your students at the start of the period, or you can write an interesting activity on the board that your students should start to complete in their math journals to kick off the lesson. Either way, while you are getting ready to present your main lesson, your students can be working diligently in their math journals.

2. Math journals add routine to your lessons

Routine can bring comfort to students. If your students know that they always use their math journals during math class, it can help bring a comfortable routine to their education. Even if you often provide handouts for your students to work on, if they paste them into their math journals to complete and save, this is one way that you can “tie your lessons together”.

3. Math journals can integrate mathematics with other subjects

Math journal prompts are a great way to integrate science, social studies and other subjects with mathematics. Math problems can concern a variety of different topics, and as math journals are a highly visual medium – usually including illustrations, charts and graphs – you can cover a lot of ground in a math journal prompt. And of course, as students are reading their math journal prompts and writing answers in their journals, they are employing their skills in English and language arts as well.

4. Math journals can help you celebrate different holidays and seasons

During the school year, you can provide themed math journal prompts to your students to celebrate different holidays or occasions while they are learning mathematics in the classroom. At Christmastime, it’s a lot more fun to figure out how many presents Santa Claus left Johnny and Suzy under the Christmas tree than it is to figure out how many peanuts Eddie ate at the baseball game.

5. Math journals provide a snapshot of the school year

By having your students maintain math journals throughout the school year, you and the parents of your students will be able to take a quick glance to see how the children have progressed with the acquisition of a variety of different math skills over time. This information will help you discuss your students’ progress during parent/teacher conferences, and can also provide a level of pride for the students themselves when they are able to flip through their math journals and see all the hard work that they were able to complete in the classroom and as homework throughout the year.

If you’re not already using math journals in your classroom, why not give them a try? And if you are using math journals and have any other great reasons why you think they are a helpful classroom tool, please let us know in a comment!