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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Writing to learn mathematics: student journals and student-constructed questions Menon, Ramakrishnan


The purpose of the study was to investigate the mathematical learning indicated by using student journals (SJ) and student-constructed word problems (SCQ) in a mathematics class where the teacher initiated the procedures and conducted the lessons. The class was a multi-level Grade 5 and Grade 6 class but only the Grade 6students were the focus of the study. Three times a week, towards the end of their mathematics lesson students wrote in their SJ in response to teacher prompts. Once a week, the students also prepared SCQ, in groups and individually. These SCQ were collected, edited, typed and redistributed to the class by the teacher, and used as class exercises. Six students were interviewed (video-taped) three times each over the 15-week period of study. Records of these interviews, classroom observations and a teacher interview were all used to complement the analysis of SJ and the individually-prepared SCQ. Although the SJ did give insights about students' mathematical knowledge, students' oral explanations indicated that they understood more than what was written in their SJ. Hence, the lack of ability to communicate through written words in the SJ was not an indicator of student’s mathematical understanding. In contrast, the SCQ indicated students' knowledge of fractions better, both (a) implicitly, through the type of question asked, information given, and the accompanying solution and (b) explicitly, through the type of fraction relationships, the amount of detail, and the number of steps and operations involved. The SCQ also revealed that students tended to base their word problems on (a) their own experiences and interests, (b) an assumption of shared knowledge between the reader and writer of the word problem, (c) numbers which made computation easy and (d) the discrete model of fractions rather than the region model. The results of this study indicate that the SCQ assisted mathematical learning in a classroom context but that the value of the SJ needs to be reconsidered.

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