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Writing in Mathematics and Technical Subjects

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Writing in Mathematics
What Does Writing in Mathematics Look Like?
Expectations in Mathematical Writing

Defined Stem Writing Assignments

Technical Writing


Writing in Mathematics

Learning mathematics is much more complex than memorizing sets of facts and examples. In order to develop new and/or improved conceptual frameworks, students must be given the opportunity to process their ideas before, during, and after new learning takes place. This can be done orally, mentally, or in writing. Strategies that require students to demonstrate their knowledge of mathematics also provide opportunities to practice writing for authentic audiences.

Teachers should implement steps from the writing process to help students use writing strategies effectively in mathematics:

  • Explain the strategy and its purpose. If appropriate, describe the real-world application and audience for the product.
  • Model how to do a sample of the expected writing. While modeling, talk aloud about the thinking that goes on while preparing to write and during writing.
  • Have students practice the strategy. This might be done in small groups with the teacher or with partners.
  • Provide feedback on the work, encouraging students to use the feedback in their next efforts.
  • Encourage students to become more independent in their practice as they build their skills.

When students have demonstrated that they have mastered the strategy, it can be used for a variety of classroom purposes. A few examples are:

  • Keeping a personal record of ideas and experiences.
  • Providing formative assessment data for teachers
  • Providing summative data for evaluation.
  • Communicating learning with parents and other interested parties.

See the Table of Contents of this teachers' guide to Writing Across the Curriculum in Mathematics for descriptions, implementation ideas, and examples of some strategies for writing to learn and writing to demonstrate knowledge in Mathematics

What does writing look like in Mathematics?

Writing in mathematics is the process to help students improve their thinking abilities to learn and communicate mathematics.

Writing serves as a tool for learning to organize, analyze, and communicate mathematical ideas as well as a way to display acquired information. Mathematical communication can be in words and/or symbols. Appropriate content vocabulary should be used at all times. The structure of the work shown should demonstrate the writer’s thinking process and follow the historically accepted mathematical formatting protocol. Student writing should primarily be evaluated on the accuracy of the mathematical content. It is important, however, to note errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation though not to the extent that it distracts from the students’ desire to express their ideas about mathematics.

Expectations in Mathematical Writing

Expectations in Mathematical Writing

  • Representations could include:
    • Graphs
    • Diagrams
    • Chart or Table
    • Equation
    • Sketch
    • Construction
  • Students should follow a problem solving plan
    • Example: SOLVE 
    • Writing product should make sense to the reader.
    • include labels on graphs and diagrams
    • Use clear and logical steps when solving an equation
    • The final answer should be connected to the context of the problem

Word Wall

Using appropriate content vocabulary to express quantitative ideas is essential for success in
mathematics. Selecting one area of the classroom to display terms on sentence strips throughout
the school year provides continual reminders of key vocabulary and enhances students’ skill in

Rubric for The Five Traits of Mathematical Writing

Defined Stem Writing Assignments

Each assignment contains introductory videos (about 5 minutes in length) showing real world applications.

Although many of the writing prompts on this site are not directly related to mathematics, the real world applicaitons of mathematics are shown in many of the videos. The mathematics teacher could create a writing prompt related to the topic on the video.

The following writing activities are directly related to mathematics.

1. Traffic Accident Reconstuctionist (Rate of Change)

2. Random Sampling - The Nielsen Ratings (Random Samples)



Technical Writing

"Technical writing conveys specific information about a technical subject to a specific audience for a specific purpose ... The words and graphics of technical writing are meant to be practical: that is, to communicate a body of factual information that will help an audience understand a subject or carry out a task." -- Michael H. Markel, Director of Technical Communication, Boise State University