Why writing needs to be taught in the maths classroom

Why writing needs to be taught in the maths classroom

By Lyn Carter

The first assessment for Year 11 students in Queensland schools is a Modelling and Problems Solving Task to be presented as a mathematical report. Communication is an important assessment criteria, with students expected to write in the appropriate genre, using the required technical vocabulary and mathematical writing conventions.

Writing in mathematics is different from the forms of writing used in other learning areas. Accordingly, mathematical writing must be taught in the mathematics classroom. Teachers should start preparing students in writing mathematically early. Report writing is a complex task and the skills should be developed gradually, preferably starting before they reach Year 11.

Our book, How to Write What You Want to Say … in Mathematics, assists students in the process of writing mathematically and preparing mathematical reports. It describes the unique nature of mathematical writing and assists students to use the impersonal vocabulary and concise forms of expression usually expected in such texts.

The book includes a double page devoted to each of the forms of mathematical writing, such as comparing, describing, explaining and generalising. It includes information on each of the sections used in a mathematical report: introductions, procedures, analysis, discussion, conclusions and more. This allows students to understand the differences between each of these forms of writing and to master the unique skills of each. A graphic organiser shows how to combine these sections, and others such as appendices into a cohesive report.

The book also a comprehensive description of the conventions of showing mathematical working. At only $25 (or less if a school purchases a class set), this is a resource that all students of senior mathematics should have.

Lyn Carter provides advice and professional development to schools and to teachers of mathematics and numeracy. She has fifteen years of experience teaching maths to students from primary to Year 12, including as Head of Mathematics. She was a member of the committee that drafted the Maths B and C syllabuses and has taught pre-service secondary mathematics teachers at the Queensland University of Technology.