Blog > Teaching Maths for Mastery > What does a good maths mastery journal look like? We asked the experts

What does a good maths mastery journal look like? We asked the experts

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Editor’s note: This video was filmed in 2015. Transcript has been edited for clarity.

What does a good maths journal look like? We asked expert maths mastery practitioners for their best journaling tips and advice.

Adding journaling to your practice can be tricky. What does a good maths journal look like? What are the different types of journals? How much scaffolding will the children need?

If you’re new to maths mastery or to journaling itself, not knowing journal best practice can leave you feeling less than confident in the classroom. Luckily, we have some expert maths mastery practitioners on hand to give their best journaling tips and advice to primary teachers who are new to journaling.

What advice would you give primary teachers who are new to journaling?

From Cynthia Law, Assistant Principal of Achievement, Diamond Academy, Thetford:

We use our journals more along the lines of a jotting journal. We still have high expectations of it because of course we have inspections that we’re accountable to. We want them to do their best work in there, whether it’s right or wrong, we’re not grading or looking at the correct answer, we’re looking at how they’re thinking and how they’re processing the work.

Use journals for reflection

A lot of times we tell them, “be reflective in your journals.” We want them to think mathematically. We want them to use the mathematical vocabulary, because it’s important if they understand the vocabulary… Part of the problem with the word problems is they don’t understand the vocabulary.

We need to be able to identify those. And a lot of times when they’re reflecting back — whether it’s in conversation or in a written question to me in their journals. Because there’s a lot of communication between me and the students within their journals, they’ll ask me questions and I’ll say, “Oh, what about this?”

And so they have to reflect back on how they can extend what we were doing or how they could explain it to one of their classmates.

Use whole-class journaling strategies

So there’s a lot of reflection in our journals, along with different strategies that we come up with as a whole class, so we don’t have just one method to solve any given problem. There’s multiple methods, you can use whichever one gets you there, be confident in your ability, and we give it a go.

So our journals are way more reflective than using it for calculations and having just a display of work.

How do you use maths journals effectively in your classroom?

From Emma Valerio, Deputy Headteacher, Three Bridges Primary School, Southall:

We do mark them, but in a non-threatening way, there’s no ‘wrong’. It is very much an Assessment for Learning tool.

We journal in-between guided practice, leading off into independent learning. So it’s the chance for them to make sure they’ve digested what we’ve done as a whole class before they have to go and do it on their own.

Use journals to find out what learners are thinking

In the younger years it is more scaffolded, they’ll often give them a question, sometimes print something out from the book to start them off. But certainly Year 2, they’ve been doing it for a year and I was looking through some of the Year 2 ones the other day. One of them said, “Have you noticed I use the two in the five?” They like to explain their thinking to their teacher.

Use journals to uncover maths misconceptions

By the time we get to Year 6, they are much more exploratory. As a teacher, I’m going to use it very specifically to make sure I’m answering questions I have about certain children.

So I’ve got Ishmael who loves the grid method — I’m going to use the journal to find out if he loves the grid method because it was the first one he learned, or if he loves the grid method because he has an issue with place value. So that’s where the journal allows me to assess his thinking if I question him cleverly enough, without finding a page of wrong answers on vertical multiplication. It’s got to be a lot more reflective than that.