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Not Teaching to the Test: Creative Approaches to Student Achievment

Math News

Subject: Math and Technology

Grade Level: 8 to 12

Materials: Internet, Word processor, Newsletter application such as Indesign, Quark, Word, or Appleworks.

How it Works: Students will write news articles explaining mathematical concepts. Any topic taught can be converted into a verbal explanation or a creative story. By thinking and eventually writing about why they follow certain procedures, students enhance their understanding of basic operations.

Final Project/Product: Students will design and publish a newsletter containing articles that demonstrate their knowledge of mathematical concepts.

Overall Value : Students are allowed to be very creative in this lesson. They can decorate their news page as motivation to write solid content. They can design artwork to illustrate their articles.

Tips for the Teacher: Have the students write the content before attempting to put it into the newsletter. However, creating the artwork first can motivate them to have good content to go along with the great artwork.


Students will understand mathematics and become mathematically confident by communicating and reasoning mathematically.
Students will write and explain math concepts.
Student will be comfortable using various computer applications.
Students will further their understanding of a mathematical topic by giving detailed explanations and step-by-step directions for solving math problems.
Students will research the history of certain topics.
Student will increase their ability to express knowledge of mathematics through writing.
Signed News - create a newsletter explaining signed numbers
How to write a good article
Create an article Step-by-Step with instructions using InDesign application (optional)
Create an article with instructions using Word
Students will access, generate, process, and transfer information using appropriate technologies: Students will understand mathematics and become mathematically confident by communicating and reasoning mathematically, by applying mathematics in real-world settings, and by solving problems through the integrated study of number systems, geometry, algebra, data analysis, probability, and trigonometry.
Language for Information and Understanding: Students will listen, speak, read, and write for information and understanding. As listeners and readers, students will collect data, facts, and ideas; discover relationships, concepts, and generalizations; and use knowledge generated from oral, written, and electronically produced texts. As speakers and writers, they will use oral and written language that follows the accepted conventions of the English language to acquire, interpret, apply, and transmit information.
English Language Arts
Day 1: Verbalizing Mathematical Operations
Students understand that mathematical operations can be described verbally.
Students practice writing instructions for someone who does not know how to solve this type of problem.
Students explain step by step how they solve equations, verbalizing each operation and explaining why they chose to use it.
Students increase their mathematical understand through detailed explanation of a chosen mathematical problem.
Examples of math articles about solving signed number problems: http://earwshs.net/Laura/signsbystudent/2006.html
Paper. Pencil.
Problem sets from which to choose.
Have students describe an everyday activity, step by step. Examples may include how to feed a baby, how to put on your socks, how to brush your teeth. While someone describes the steps, another person should do exactly what is said. Inevitably, humorous mistakes in directions will be made. Through the humor, precise language is refined.
Pretend that your students have to describe how to solve a type of problem to someone who has just arrived from outer space. After solving problems related to your topic, have students describe, step by step, how they arrived at their solutions. Encourage precise language. Do this as a class so that everyone understands the model.
Working in groups of 2 or 3, students repeat the procedure using a different example. Group work promotes clear explanations. Produce one written document per group.
Have two groups work together. Group 1 gives a similar problem to group two and gives directions according to their written document. If directions are not clear, they can be edited at this time.
Groups switch roles.
Choose one problem of a similar type to those studied in class. Write a clear set of instructions about how to solve this problem.
Any topic you teach can be converted into a verbal explanation or a creative story.
Day 2: Creative Writing
Student's increase mathematical understanding through creative descriptions.
Students use writing skills to communicate a concept.
Paper, Pencil
Colored pencils for illustrations, if applicable.
Tell the class a "story" which illustrates a mathematical concept. For example, parallel lines crossed by a transversal create angles that have "familial" relationships. The vertical angles are twins. Some cousins look alike, but live far away in another line. Be creative!
Using some of the previous day's examples, have students write in paragraph form a story about their example.
Working in small groups, students share their stories. Group members are encouraged to offer suggestions for clarification.
If there is time, have students illustrate their stories. In the example above, all angles can be color coded according to congruence.
Using the previous day's homework, write your directions in paragraph form.
Students will share their paragraphs in school and critique each other for clarity.
Day 3: Preparing Articles
Students increase their written communication skills.
Students learn strategies to critique each other appropriately.
Paragraphs written as previous day's homework.
Paper and pencil.
Model skills to critique appropriately. Students practice how to offer constructive criticism, question for the purpose of clarification, and treat each other respectfully. As a group, create a chart that lists appropriate questions.
In groups of two, students take turns reviewing teach others' creative stories. Students work towards making their work clear, concise, and correct.
Once this process is clear, have students start thinking about another concept they wish to write about that will be published in their newspaper.
Students begin to research background information. For example, if explaining the Pythagorean Theorem, students might wish to include a bit of information about Pythagoras. Add details to the article.
Write a draft of your newspaper article.
See the Content and Working with Others sections of the project rubric found at: http://lauraanderson.org/Signed%20News/rubric.htm .
Day 4: Publishing the newsletter
Students will learn computer applications to prepare their newsletter.
Students will create a newsletter page using their chosen application.
Students will use artistic abilities to format and illustrate their newsletters.
Access to the Internet and computer applications such as Indesign, Quark, Word, or Appleworks.
Drafts of articles.
Students will meet in a lab which provides computer access. For ideas on how to create a newsletter, see http://lauraanderson.org/Signed%20News/index.html .
Students create the newsletter using the available software. Elements to be considered are A) a title, B) the layout, C) placement of the article, and D) scanned illustrations, photograph, or inserted clip art. For samples of student work, go to: http://lauraanderson.org/Signed%20News/studentwork.html .
Students will complete their newsletter.
Students should work in pairs reviewing each other's work and offering constructive criticism.
Completed newsletters should be published.
A rubric of the entire project can be found at: http://lauraanderson.org/Signed%20News/rubric.htm .

Laura Anderson


Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School
140 West 102 Street
New York City, New York 10025

Laura Anderson has been teaching for a total of twenty-two years in both the public and private school environment in Texas and New York. She is currently teaching technology and math at an alternative high school in New York City.


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