Categorized under: SUMS

Implementing Journals in Math

Journaling is a great way for teachers to enhance and support student learning. It provides the student and the teacher with an open line of communication to keep the learning process flowing.  Journaling helps students clarify their thinking and allows students to increase their problem-solving ability.

Teachers need to provide prompts or activities that ensure a high degree of success. This will minimize the frustration level of students and can help the student to understand the connection between mathematics and other disciplines of learning. As you read your students’ journals, be sure to focus on their reasoning and communication, rather than the right or wrong. Students may have answered a question incorrectly, but the reasoning of how they got to their answer is more important. They may have just made a minor mistake, which could be addressed later. Be sure to respond to the student, beyond the usual “good job” or “excellent work.” Point out what was great about the students’ reasoning process or strategy they chose to use to solve the problem (eg. “Johnny, I really liked how you used a different strategy than most to solve your problem! Do you think you would be willing to share with the class?”). This will help create an open and comfortable means of communication between you and your students. The benefit may also be a confident math learner!

There are several different ways that teachers can use journals.

 Reflection Journaling: Students reflect on what was learned in math class. Teachers provide higher-order thinking questions for students to answer about the lesson. Questions like “How would you solve? What strategy would you use and why? How do you know that is the answer to the problem? What steps did you take in order to solve?” Summarizing is another way one can reflect on a mathematical concept.

Vocabulary Journals: Students can create a reference books of math terminology, similar to a dictionary. Create space for each letter of the alphabet, say about 3 pages or more. As a term is entered or written in, be sure to include the definition, a diagram, illustration, or sample problem. This will help the student to see the use of the word and create memory triggers for later use.

Note-Taking Journals: Students can keep track of notes taken in class. This is a working journal that is added to daily. In this journal students can incorporate vocabulary, sample problems, and different strategies one can use to solve. Students may also choose to include their independent practice problems. This journal can be used to keep track of any important information relayed to the students during the math lesson.

Practice Journals: Students can keep track of sample problems and strategies used to solved various types of problems.

Journals are also a great tool to teach students organizational skills.

  • A Table of Contents should be included to keep a reference of where to find information.
  • An Index at the end of the journal can be used as a reference for students as well.
  • Good handwriting should be practiced in journaling. This will ensure that students can use their journal as a reference. Good handwriting will also promote pride in ones’ work.
  • Keeping all information for math within one place, can help keep a student from losing assignments, notes, or other important information.

Looking for quick ideas for implementing journals?

Here is a list of 101 Math Journal Prompts.

For primary (K-2 grade) math journaling ideas, check out this website.

For purchasing journal prompts for use in math, check out this website.

For more information on math journals, see the resource page.

If you have any questions or additional information on the use of journals in math, please feel free to leave a comment below.  


  1. New to Math, thanks for detailed info.

    August 3rd, 2011

RSSSubscribe to my feed now.

About Me

Tina Cordova has been a classroom teacher since 2002; where she developed a love for all subjects especially mathematics.  She currently serves as a Math Coach at Pine Grove Elementary in Hernando County, FL working with the SUMS Math Program.