Learning to Report in Mathematics

Damian Howison
St. Mary MacKillop College, Swan Hill, Victoria

The story of how one school has built its Year 7 - 12 mathematics curriculum around Learning to Work Like a Mathematician with a focus on Replacement Units and how staff support students to prepare reports of their investigations.

Assessment procedures are included as are examples of student reports.

The image is a slide from a lesson to support reporting on Jack & Jill's buckets. The slide show for this lesson is included below. Jack & Jill's buckets is based on Task 63, Fried Rice.

Green Line

Replacement Unit Model Begin the story by clicking the image to reveal the structure of a Replacement Unit and realising how it builds towards the excitement of writing your own report, just as a mathematician needs to. Then view this slide show the school has prepared to follow up a class lesson on Jack & Jill's buckets. As you view, you will understand both the problem and the support provided by the slides as a focus for class discussion. The report of this whole class investigation is built with the class.

Now read Damian's explanation of how teaching report writing developed at St. Mary MacKillop. Other staff were consulted as the drafts developed and responses were positive.

It all came about because we had a year focusing on writing across the curriculum here at our school a few years ago now. As part of that I attended a good PD session delivered by an expert (James Ferguson is a name that rings a bell) who introduced me to the different text types and how he encourages them to be taught at a primary level. I put his ideas directly into action when thinking about the "What Did I Do" section - developing this as a recount, or a story of "how I worked like a mathematician". I sort of developed the third section along similar lines - there are some differences - the impersonal style, the timeless-present tense. Some of my ideas also came from a book I acquired about learning to write. I actually contacted the author of this book and got some more feedback, again positive although she seemed to hint that I might be making the process a little onerous.

Of course you can see the four sections addressed in the report which came directly from the task centre. But other than that it's suprisingly difficult to find any advice or material on how to really teach students to write about mathematics.

I've shared some of the powerpoints with others, all of whom have found them invaluable, including staff from Lilydale High School who visited during their process of shifting their curriculum to Working Like a Mathematician.

And actually just the other day at the book shop at Latrobe Uni I picked up another book. This guy is helping scientists or uni students write their articles and presentations. It's good to read and I like where he's coming from. He suggests that, rather than be afraid of the writing or treating it as an unfortunate but necessary task, if you plan properly for it then the process becomes much more enjoyable and even informs and improves the study, experimenting, or learning that has taken place. I'm hoping to use some of his ideas to further the develop the idea of the Conclusion - so far I have found it difficult to inform and support that process.

So it's come a long way, but I can still develop it a little further I think. When it works you get some really great work out of students, and not least they feel pretty proud of what they have achieved.

We have a powerpoint like this for each replacement unit we do - so I have Jumping Kangaroos, Pentagon Triangles, and Garden Beds. Each uses exactly the same process.

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