Building Better Answers in Math

05 April 2014
Have you seen this?  Explain how you found your answer ... math.  Some of my students' explanations in math have sounded like this lately.  I've been getting, "I double-checked my answer", "I checked my work and chose the correct operation", and even, "I used a calculator".  Ugh.

And then I had an idea.  My students can write pretty fabulous reader response answers, so I decided to start teaching communicating in math the same way I do communicating in reading.  

So this ...

Soon led to this ...
We've been using our colour-coded success criteria in reading all year.  We've been building it slowly, adding a new criteria every few weeks - only after the students have mastered the previous ones.  My students can identify each criteria in their own work, work together to identify the criteria in their peer's work, and set goals for improvement based on their answers.  We write each criteria in a different colour - and that's the colour students use when coding their own answers.  It's a pretty beautiful system.  :)
A couple of weeks ago I started using the TACK board (Thinking, Application, Communication, and Knowledge/Understanding) for our learning goals and success criteria in math.  You can read a little more about it HERE.  (I also included a link to download the letters and headers I made).  This is what our TACK board looks like after three weeks in.  All our lesson learning goals are posted under "K", and a new goal with each new concept we learn.  The "T" will build our success criteria for planning for problem-solving, "A" will build our success criteria for problem-solving strategies, and the "C" will build our success criteria for communicating in math.  Just like our reading board, I will slowly add success criteria under the "T", "A", and "C" - adding only after we've mastered the content.  The sticky notes under the "C" column are math vocabulary words the students should be including in their answers.  Students can add a new sticky note each time we introduce a new term.

When I started the board, I wasn't planning on colour-coding our math explanations, so I made the colour of our success criteria under each match the heading.  About a week later though, I decided to start colour coding so I added a coloured dot to each of the criteria under the "C" for our coding.  The students use the colour of the dot to show where they have used the criteria in answering their questions.  And it's working.  :)  

It's still a work in progress, and will continue to be until the end of the year, but I'm excited about the progress we're making, and I can't wait to see what they'll be able to accomplish by the end of the year.  

Happy Saturday!


  1. I. want. to. teach. with. you. I think we could do A-MAZE-ING things...every time you post something I think "That's what we just did!" or "That's what are are about to do!" or "Shoot--I really need to do that!" Great post!

  2. What a great tip! Exactly the sort of prompts I need for the pupils in my maths class, thanks tonnes!

  3. This is just what I need for this week! I'm sending home the released state test from last year and it's all multiple choice. I've been trying to think of a good way to make them "explain" their answer choice instead of just circling it!

  4. I love this! My students are getting so much better at explaining their work orally but are not transferring it into written form. I love how you have the students color code. It really makes them accountable.

    Quinnessential Lessons

  5. Oo love your craft board! I had a student respond once with "I used my brain." We worked a lot on responses that year!

    Sara :)
    The Colorful Apple