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Diana Dumlao

EDUC 206

Action Research Report

Look At The Problem

I have identified two problems with the class I will be working with: 1. more than half the class
has been identified as English Language Learners (ELLs) who have a hard time with ELA skills and 2. most
students in the class do not have access to a computer/technology once leaving the classroom. Since I
am not able to be presently in the classroom with the students, this information was revealed to me by
cooperating teacher, Mrs. Jordan, via email.

Examine What You Know

Since I have the unfortunate circumstance of not being able to be present in the classroom, I
decided that my action research project needed to be surrounded by this fact. Therefore I came up with
criteria that would help me work around this: 1. the teacher needed to be able to implement the action
research without me being present, and 2. the action research needed to be something that wouldnt
disrupt or take too much time away from the participating students.

Acquire Knowledge

After hours of researching using the two criteria stated above, I came across the concept of
math journals. I have come across these in previous education courses, so I knew the basic concept of
what they were and how to implement them in the classroom. Studies and research that I will be using
to drive my action research project includes, Using Journals as a Window on Students' Thinking in
Mathematics, Using Math Journals to Enhance Second Graders' Communication of Mathematical
Thinking, and "I can't evn get why she would make me rite in her class: Using think-alouds in middle
school math for "at-risk" students. Even though my action research will be in a classroom with 9th and
10th graders in a general education setting, I wanted to get a better picture of how math journals are
used across grades and with varying levels of math and ELA skills.

The first study that helped me decide to do my action research in math journals was, Using
Journals as a Window on Students' Thinking in Mathematics by Christine Gordon and Dorothy
Maccinnis. What the researchers found out was that the open-ended entries were windows to
students' thoughts about their personal feelings and emotions, their difficulties and problems, and their
discoveries and insights. This is something I would like to happen at the end of my action research
project. I would like to do the same for my CT, I would like her to be able to see into the thoughts of
her students so that she can make any necessary adjustments or changes to her lessons so that her
students can succeed.

The second study I would like to discuss is titled, Using Math Journals to Enhance Second
Graders' Communication of Mathematical Thinking. In the results of the study, it was found that using
math journals positively inuenced the students communication of mathematical thinking and their use
of math vocabulary. Math journals also served as tool to communicate between the students and
teacher and used for assessment of student learning. In this research, the teacher found that her
students math journals provided insights into student thought process and understanding of
mathematical concepts, rather than just checking for the correct answers. By reviewing of students
journals it provided information about which topics needed to be re-taught to individual students, to
groups of students or to the whole class.

Another study that was done with students was an in-class intervention that used writing as a
means to solve math word problems something that many students struggle with. In Bernadowskis
study, "I can't evn get why she would make me rite in her class:" Using think-alouds in middle school
math for "at-risk" students, explains that the premise of the study was that word problems can be
solved using a writing framework that requires them to articulate the thought process used to answer
the question, which can be seen through a think-loud of reading comprehension. The results of this
study indicated that students improved in their abilities to articulate their answers in written form, and
used and applied the writing process in math.

Devise A Plan

For the actual intervention, I wanted to implement something that the teacher could do without
me being there, and I also didnt want my intervention to take too much time away from class. After
reading various studies about the benefits of writing in math class, it was a route I wanted to take. In
order to make sure that my intervention would be simple and quick for both my cooperating teacher
and the participating students, I thought about using exit slips as a way to do so. Its not exactly using a
math journal but I have seen the benefits myself of using writing for math class in my own courses at
college.

What I wanted to do with these students was to ask students about their thinking process much
like many of the studies I have found. For each lesson I wanted to take a typical problem from the
chapter/topic that was taught that day and use it as an exit slip for the student participants. This is
overall look of my plan. This doesnt seem very innovative or different at first, but instead of solving the
problem the typical way, I wanted the students to explain how they would solve the problem, without
actually solving the problem. This might sound a bit strange, but my perspective is that I wanted the
focus to be on students thinking about the how to solve the problem rather than just getting the correct
answer. There are mainly two parts to solving a problem, creating a plan on how to solve the problem,
then actually executing your plan leading to an answer. A huge issue with this is that there is too much
focus with executing the plan and getting to the correct answer. I find that there is less emphasis of
having students think about their plan or thought process or even teachers examining student thinking.
The only evidence Ive seen of teachers focusing on creating a plan is just modeling think-alouds which is
a great tool, but usually they just stop there and dont do anything else to help students think about
their thinking. The premise of my plan is that we can do more to help students succeed in creating a
plan that makes sense to them and also is mathematically sound in its explanation.

There are teachers who model their thinking through think-alouds but I have found that no
matter how many times you do this with students, it doesnt work. I remember when I was in high-
school I would always think to myself, How would my teacher solve this? and for many of the times I
did this, I didnt know, despite teachers doing think-alouds consistently throughout lesson. When they
would explain their thinking it would make sense, but when it was time for me to solve a problem by
myself I just couldnt do it. It wasnt until I examined my own thoughts about how to solve problems
that I was able to understand how to approach a math problem. In addition, by examining my own
thoughts and explaining my thinking to my teacher, my teacher was able to help me explore those
thoughts so that I could better approach and make a better plan to solve the actual problem. This is
what I wanted to do with the students. I wanted them to focus more on coming up with a plan rather
than execution and correct answers. By having students only explaining their thought process about
how to approach a problem, the teacher is able to check for understanding, which is one of the hardest
things to do in math. Instead of just guessing that the students understand, teachers can see into their
thinking through writing to see their understanding of the material. By getting rid of the execution and
answering part of the problem, it takes the pressure off of students to get to the right answers. Through
this they have to really focus on creating the plan which is key to executing and getting to the correct
answer. If you mess up the creating part, you also mess up the execution, thereby messing up the
correct answer. By building a strong foundation in creating a plan, the rest will follow. My hope at the
end is that students will be better at creating plans, and finding holes in their plans, and asking relevant
questions, and that teachers will be better at exploring, seeing, and helping students develop their
thought processes.

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References

Bernadowski, C. (2016). "I can't evn get why she would make me rite in her class:" Using think-alouds in
middle school math for "at-risk" students. Middle School Journal, 47(4), 3-14.

GORDON, C., & MACINNIS, D. (1993). Using Journals as a Window on Students' Thinking in Mathematics.
Language Arts, 70(1), 37-43. Retrieved from
http://www.jstor.org.www.library.manhattan.edu/stable/41482057

Kostos, K., & Shin, E. (2010). Using Math Journals to Enhance Second Graders' Communication of
Mathematical Thinking. Early Childhood Education Journal, (3). 223.