All About Integrating Writing in Math

Writing about math.

This blog post is all about integrating writing into your primary math block. The examples will include tips for teaching students how to respond to short answer questions and constructed response.

Start with teaching a fun acronym to explain the method of short answer questions!

Check this new one out that I created.

BURST short answer/constructed response memory mnemonic device.

Try Starting with BURST

I created a BURST for students to use when they are tackling short answer problems.

  • B- Box your important numbers and math terms.
  • U- Underline the questions or action verb.
  • R- Restate the question.
  • S- Show your work.
  • T- Tell your answer and describe your reasoning.

Format Options

Next, choose the way you want students to work for short answers in your classroom. You can either have them on looseleaf paper, in a notebook, or on printables and kept in a folder. Make it work best for your classroom!

 Here are two pictures of the notebook format for a short answer. Multiple strips come on one piece of paper and can be cut and glued into students’ notebooks. On the left, you see the option of keeping it in a notebook. On the right, you see the option of keeping it in a 3-ring binder.

Writing about Math- printable format.

 You can also choose to use the printable format where students write their answers on a worksheet or printer paper. Keep it in their folder with a checklist BURST bookmark!

Keep it Organized

No matter which way you choose, have one spot where students keep all of their short answers work together, whether it be a notebook, a folder, or a binder. In this collection, keep a bookmark for them to refer to constantly!

Organizing student work.

Grading Constructed Responses

Then comes the fun part of grading these tough constructed responses. Keep a quick checklist to help you grade your short answers. Students need to focus on answering ALL parts of the questions, restating their answers, and even breaking apart the questions. If you purchase my short answer products on TPT, they come with answer keys to help you out with this, too!

Grading tough constructed responses.

FAQ About How to Manage Integrating Writing in Math

Math constructed response questions.

1. When and how often should I give short answer opportunities?

There are two different options I would suggest going with. One option would be to try to tie one of these short answer questions in once a week after you’ve done lots of modeling and practice. Another suggestion I have is to wait until the end of your unit when the students have full knowledge on what they’ve learned.

2. What should I do when literacy skills get in the way of math short answer?

Here, I would do a lot of modeling and guided work when you begin short answer. For first grade teachers, this will be very tricky. There is still a lot of writing instruction going on in first grade, so that will play a huge part in your math short answer. When you first start short answer, I definitely suggest a scaffolded model where you gradually release instruction and independence. For quite a while, it may be that short answers are something you do as a whole group where students are working through the problem with you in their own notebook.

3. How long until my students can work independently on short answers?

See the above answer for first grade. For second grade, though, I’d say spend the first two or three short answers as a whole group activity where they follow along with you. Then, slowly release your instruction and let them slowly increase how much they do on their own. Maybe try doing BURST with them for the first several short answers so that they fully understand the question. You could even do part A with the students for a few months and let them do part B on their own, which is the explanation part.

4. How should I set up short answer responses in my room?

There are many different options here! One suggestion is to work them into your daily centers once a week. This could be something they start on Monday and carry over to the next day if the students don’t finish. Another way is to use them at the end of a unit where they practice writing about math a few times before a final test. Also, you can choose to have one short answer notebook where students glue their questions into the notebook and keep their responses in there. Or you could have a folder with their short answer responses on printables. (See above for different formatting options).

5. Should I wait until test prep season to begin?

I would absolutely begin constructed response and short answer as soon as you and your students are ready! Waiting until February and March for ‘test prep season’ isn’t the best idea. Your students will be stressed enough with all the review; it’ll be too hard to learn and retain this new method of writing. Go ahead and start on your first unit! Teach BURST from the first month of school and practice as often as you can!

Need resources for integrating writing in math?

Look no further! I have 1st and 2nd grade common core aligned Short Answers just for you! You can buy the bundles that include short answer for all FOUR domains. You can also purchase single domains, too!

Writing about Math- Integrating writing into your primary math block.

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