Math Journal


One of the most important reasons to have your child keep a math journal is for them to realize that it isn’t unrelated to everything else in their education.  Math was my weak area, and as such, we did our math lessons separately from all other working at a table

For example, in history my kids wrote history journals, history reports, history timelines, completed projects and became immersed in the lessons.  The same can be said for science, literature, art – but not math.

When we worked on math, we opened our math books, learned the lesson, worked on either the even or odd problems, checked our answers to see if they were right, and breathed a sigh of relief that it was over.

If one of the kids didn’t get a concept, we hashed it out until they either finally got it or we gave up.sliding beads calculator

Math needs to be part of the family, not just the visiting Uncle everyone puts up with until he’s gone.  And familiarity is the way to bring math into the fold.  When kids write about math, it loses some of its scariness.  When I taught math, I felt like I was barely treading water, trying to push through the next concept so we could stay on track.  It felt like I could never quite catch up with all the other homeschooling moms, the ones I perceived as doing a much better job than I could ever do.

I have discovered that many of the other parents felt the same way.  My kids were already graduated when I figured out that math scares a lot of parents.  My goal now is to take away the fear for parents and their kids today.

A math journal is a place for your kids to record their math work and thinking.  There are three main ways I suggest using math journals:

math writing1) Record solutions to math problems, along with your child’s strategy and thought processes used to arrive at their solution.



2) Writing about learning.math writing journal  This is an example of before a lesson on equivalent fractions and after the lesson.

Date your journal entries so you can see the progress.  It also helps your kids look up something if they forgot how to do a step or process.


3) Writing about their attitude toward mathematics.  I feel that it’s important to know how your kids feel about math.  The more comfortable they become with math and the math process, the better they will feel about it.

 What Makes a Good Math Journal Prompt?

Let me give you a few ideas of what a prompt should do before I give you a list of prompts.

  • allows children to work at their individual levels of thinking,aiqAzL7iM
  • provides the opportunity for kids to learn by answering the prompt,
  • may have more than one solution or path to arrive at the solution, from simple to complex,
  • requires more than just memorizing facts or reproducing a skill,
  • provides opportunities for kids to represent their mathematical ideas using models and written language,
  • provides opportunities for kids to justify their reasoning and evaluate the reasoning of others,
  • has clear, concise directions,
  • provides opportunities for discussion.

The most important idea to keep in mind when writing a prompt is to make sure it involves significant mathematics.  For example, if I were to state that,  “Ali had twelve apples and ate two, how many are left?” it would not do much for developing mathematical thinking.  On the other hand, “Ali had twelve apples and ate some.  How many did she eat?  How many are left?” would give your child the opportunity to use higher lever thinking and come up with many different solutions.

521ae56c58acb2e1edf8912188c3ffeeSome Suggestions For Math Journal Prompts

The type of journal you use doesn’t really matter.  However, lined spiral notebooks, or ones the kids can decorate or personalize in some way are fun.  Imagine what they would like in a writing journal, and make it the same for your math journals.

Each day, I would suggest a writing prompt from the list below.  However, if your child would like to come up with their own prompt, that is terrific.  The only guidelines?  It has to be about math or a mathematical process. Also, you will be able to create much better prompts as you become more comfortable with the process.


  • What did I do today in math?cliparts-images-7iaRKM4iA
  • What did I learn today in math?
  • What did I not understand in math today?
  • What strategy did I use today?
  • How did I get the solution?
  • What did I like about working the problem?
  • What did I dislike about working the problem?
  • Make a list of how I have used math today- Example: telling time, buying food/clothes, how much time before lunch?
  • If I were an inch tall-
  • If I were twelve inches tall-
  • Write the directions for how to work the problem.
  • Write a letter to mom telling her what you did today in math.
  • Write a letter to a second grader and tell her/him what you love about math class.
  • Write a letter to Dad telling him what you learned today in math.
  • Make a Venn diagram for addition and subtraction, or multiplication and division.
  • Write five questions about today’s work using similar problems.
  • My best day with math was________
  • I love math because_________Royalty-free clipart of a
  • I hate math because_________
  • I want to become better at math because_________
  • One math activity I enjoyed was __________ because________
  • When someone says math is fun, I feel___________
  • Math scares me because_________
  • Draw a picture of what we did in math today.
  • My goal for this year in math is________
  • In math this week, I discovered___________
  • I wish I knew more about_________
  • Describe uses for what we learned today in class.
  • List two ways this problem can be solved.
  • What is the most important part of solving a problem?
  • I knew my answer was correct because________
  • Was this problem easy or difficult for me? Why?
  • Was I frustrated trying to work this problem? Why or why not?
  • What would happen if I missed a step in the problem?
  • What other strategies could I use?school-book-clipart-math-book
  • What could I have done differently when I worked the problem?
  • What does subtraction mean?
  • What does addition mean?
  • What is important about telling time?
  • What is important about money?
  • How does my family use fractions?
  • Using today’s lesson, write a new word I used and define it.
  • When I was in first or second grade, my favorite thing to do in math was-
  • What tricks did I use to learn addition facts?
  • What tricks did I use to learn subtraction facts?
  • How does my mom or dad use addition?
  • How does my mom or dad use subtraction?
  • Is math my favorite subject? Why, or why not?
  • Do you think the girls or the boys like math best? Why?
  • Draw a picture of myself teaching math.
  • Create a timeline of what I’ve learned in math since kindergarten.
  • Explain a fact family.
  • Tips I would give to a friend about this math problem…
  • My worse mistake today was…..
  • Pretend I am a shape. Which shape would I be and why?
  • If I had a magic wand in math, what would I use it on?
  • Invent a new shape-name it, draw it, and tell how it is used.
  • The most important part of solving a problem is…..
  • If math were a color, what color would it be and why?i-love-math-pictures-bright_eye_heart_i_love_math_posters-r1fe9c0411f28420b91d43ebcbbd0bc7a_w2q_8byvr_512
  • If math were a sound, what sound would it be and why?
  • If math were a shape, what shape would it be and why?
  • If math were a pattern, what pattern would it be and why?
  • Make a list of shapes in the room.
  • Make a list of numbers in the room
  • When I see a word problem, the first thing I do is…..
  • When I see a word problem, the first thing I think is…..
  • Describe my feelings when asked to do a problem on the board.
  • Make a math monster and write how it works a problem in math.
  • Design a math bumper sticker.
  • Design a math slogan.
  • Design a graph for something I’ve learned in math.
  • Why is math necessary to learn?
  • Why do I need to write in my journal?

These journal prompts have come from numerous sources, and I have added several of my own ideas.

Just like with their writing journal, give your kids lots of prep.  Model the process every time they are asked to write in math-journal-clipart-1their math journals.  Provide a list of terms you have been using during the lessons.  Discuss how they would answer a prompt.  Allow them to work it out aloud with you if they would like.  And don’t worry if they can’t seem to get past a sentence at first.  As they get more comfortable with the process, they will write more.

If you are anything like me, this will be a fairly new idea.  Hang in there and you will see an improvement in your child’s math knowledge as well as their attitudes toward the subject of math.

If you have any ideas or comments, please feel free to leave them below.  I would love to ear from you and will respond to every comment.








Photo credit: Kosovo Basic Education Program Book Fair via photopin (license)

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8 Replies to “Math Journal”

  1. I like numbers and I think many children are actually nervous about maths (english version). This blog gives some good insights on how to make the subject more exciting and less worrisome for our kids.
    I have always been intrigued as to why Americans say ‘math’ and us brits say ‘maths’. So I looked it up. Both versions are acceptable but it does appear that the short form of mathematics was introduced first in the mid 19th century in N. America and that version is ‘math’. ‘Maths’ was an early 20th century abbreviation from Britain and although it is a plural noun, it’s treated as singular too. Great post. Ches

    1. How interesting Ches. I had no idea that Brits added an s. My goal is to help kids view math as just another subject rather than something isolated.

  2. Those are awesome tips. When I was younger and my dad was teaching me math, the end goal was never to find the correct answer (although eventually getting the correct answer, of course, be preferable ). The goal was to understand why I was taking the next step and the logic behind it. This greatly helped me in understanding more complex equations later on. I love the idea of journal prompts. Really helps to keep the momentum of journal writting going in case of getting stuck and not being sure of what else to write about. Great post! Thanks!

    1. Thanks Zinette! I struggled in math, so my kids did too because I was their teacher. I wish I had known these techniques when I had them at home. I love the idea of a math journal and becoming familiar with math as just another subject to explore rather than something terrible to muck through.

  3. What an excellent article! As a replacement teacher, I have seen the differences between the learning of a student who uses a journal and those who do not. And to be honest, the ones who uses a journal have a tactical advantage over their peers as it solidifies what they have been learning. It also doubles up as a dictionary/ cheat sheet when they’re struggling to understand what the teacher requires of them.

    1. Thanks, Amberlee! I wish I had the knowledge that I have today back when I was homeschooling my kids. Their lives would have been much easier, and so would have mine. It gets pretty frustrating for parents and students when math is separated from the rest of the curriculum. An understanding of the processes of mathematics is much more important than keeping on track with the number of units covered.

  4. As someone who home-schools their children, it is important to have them create a math journal so they see that math is not just a separate subject. When the author of the blog was taught it was always taught separately. But the truth is, math is everywhere. Say you are learning history and being homeschooled. You get immersed in the subject, you write papers on a certain time period, and timelines, and book reports on a book in that time period, and a report on a famous someone living in that time, learn about the art and games that they played, you learn about the food that they ate (maybe even trying to make some of the food), you listen to the music of the time if you can find some. But it becomes all inclusive. And this is done for other subjects as well, but math is always just math. But it’s really not. We just math every day. We count money out when we spend it, and we measure things when we cook, we use statistics when we figure out who is going to the final four in basketball or statistic for baseball, we use geometry when we try to figure out the angles we need to make the cue ball hit another ball just right to go into the pocket, and we use math when we have to figure out how much time till our favorite show comes on. A math journal can also be used for your children to write down how they arrived at a certain answer, even though it may not be the way you would have thought to come to the right conclusion, sometimes there is more than one right way to get the same answer, and that’s okay. They can also write about what they are learning and how they feel they are progressing. They need to date this, so that they can go back and see how far they have come. They can even talk about why they dislike certain problems and if they feel they are difficult. It’s important for them to feel they can express their feelings about what they are doing, and not be judged for what they say. Some parts of math are just hard and not very fun. And sometimes you have to think outside the box to make it more interesting and something that they want to learn. Like using cooking for fractions. And pool or basketball for geometry.

    1. You sound like a real math lover who understands the importance of math in our daily lives. I appreciate and admire folks like you. I still struggle with math, and feel bad that I didn’t have the understanding while I was homeschooling that I do today. My son does own his own construction company and uses math daily. He has a much better grasp than I did at his age. Thanks for your insight!

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