A Task Force on Conceptualizing Elementary Mathematical Writing: Implications for Mathematics Education Stakeholders

The Elementary Mathematical Writing (EMW) Task Force was made up of educators with unique perspectives about elementary mathematical writing and with the goal to reach a consensus about and priorities for the types of and purposes for elementary mathematical writing. The EMW Task Force met in October 2015, analyzed elementary writing prompts and samples, standards documents, and recommendations, and identified four types of mathematical writing and their associated purposes: Exploratory, Informative/Explanatory, Argumentative, and Mathematically Creative.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1545908
Funding Period: 
Tuesday, September 1, 2015 to Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Full Description: 

Communicating about mathematical ideas by talking and writing is central to the teaching and learning of mathematics as it can help students learn concepts at a deeper level. More specifically, according to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), students should develop their ability to construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others in mathematics and write across content areas. However, there is limited guidance about how to teach students to write mathematically, how to evaluate students' mathematical writing, and the kinds of mathematical writing tasks to include in curriculum resources. This may mean that students do not experience the benefits from writing about their mathematical ideas.

The Elementary Mathematical Writing (EMW) Task Force was made up of educators who bring unique perspectives about elementary mathematical writing. It included practitioners and academics from the fields of mathematics education, mathematics, and writing education and who are knowledgeable about students who have special needs, are English language learners, and have been identified as gifted. With the ultimate goal of reaching consensus about and priorities for the types of and purposes for elementary mathematical writing, the task force reviewed student work, writing prompts, curriculum standards, and other items. They also suggested recommendations for future work in this area.

The EMW Task Force meth the goals of identifying, describing, and recommending productive types of and purposes for mathematical writing by elementary students. The four types of mathematical writing are:

  • Exploratory – with the purpose of personally making sense of a problem, situation, or one’s own ideas.
  • Informative/Explanatory – with the purposes of describing or explaining mathematical ideas.
  • Argumentative – with the purposes of constructing viable arguments and/or critiquing the reasoning of others.
  • Mathematically Creative – with the purposes of documenting original ideas, problems, and/or solutions; conveying fluency and flexibility in thinking; and elaborating on ideas.

The work and recommendations of the EMW Task force highlights the necessity of a comprehensive line of work related to mathematical writing at a critical juncture in the history of the field of mathematics education. The intellectual merit of this project, therefore, is in its potential to transform the field of mathematics education. The broader impacts include the facilitation of collaboration among and across disciplines and stakeholders.

The Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.