As a blended learning coach, I spend time in classrooms where teachers use adaptive software to provide students with personalized math practice. Often a station rotation lesson for math is composed of:

  • a teacher-led station for direct instruction and modeling.
  • an online station at which students work with an adaptive math software program, like Aleks, IXL, or Dreambox. 
  • an offline station where kids work offline to practice problems on a worksheet.

I know that “personalization” is a hot topic in education right now and adaptive programs are a great way to provide personalized practice. My concern is that I see many students at these online stations simply clicking buttons and guessing because they get bored or frustrated. 

I’d like to see teachers pair personalized practice using an adaptive program with a metacognitive routine. Students should be encouraged to think about their thinking and learning. Simply asking students to engage with a program for 20-30 minutes each day does not do this.

Instead, I encourage the teachers I coach to ask students to spend the last 5 minutes in their station writing in an online math journal. Students take a screenshot of a problem they encountered and write a brief journal entry explaining both the problem and their process solving it. This simple practice has several benefits. 

  1. It builds a reflective process into their math practice.
  2. It encourages them to articulate their thought process in writing using math vocabulary.
  3. It provides teachers with insight into their students’ thinking and valuable formative assessment data.  

Below is the math journal template I designed for a 3rd grade math teacher I coach. You are welcome to make a copy of it and adapt it to use with your students. 

The more we encourage students to slow down and think about problems and how they solve them, the more confident they will become as learners. 

10 Responses

  1. Love it, Catlin! I agree, with a station rotation model, simply putting students on a device for “time on task” doesn’t get into the metacognitive piece.

    I’m wondering for language learners and building communication skills, adding an initial instructions slide with possible sentence stems or examples might also support students in developing metacognition.

    – One success from today was…
    – Something I learned …
    – One thing that is still challenging for me is…
    – ____ used to be challenging but now is …
    – I noticed that…
    – Problem/Strategy ____ reminded me of …

    and so on…

    Just a thought! Since it is an independent station without teacher support, building in those scaffolds students can reference if needed could be helpful as they develop their skills.

    Thanks for the share,

    • Alisha, thank you for the great idea! I have several students in my academic support class whose math class is all ALEKS. Adding the sentence starters not only prompts students to stop and reflect on their problem-solving skills, it also allows them to express specific difficulties, confusions or frustrations in solving the problems. Plus, I can see where students get stuck, and can share this information with their math teacher.

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