Making Sense of Math Journals

I have to use a math journal?  
How will I ever fit it in?  
I don't have time to use journals!  
Where do I start? 
What do we even do in our journals?  
These are just a few of the questions and concerns that come up when the math journal discussion is brought up.  Let's make sense of math journals once and for all! 

I have to use a math journal? 

You GET to use a math journal! They are excellent tools in implementing the Common Core Mathematical Practices standards.  Here is a quick overview of the standards.  
1.  Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. 
2.  Reason abstractly and quantitatively. 
3.  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. 
4.  Model with mathematics. 
5. Use appropriate tools strategically. 
6.  Attend to precision. 
7.  Look for  and make use of structure. 
8.  Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning.  

Math journals (solving problems daily) give opportunities to practice each of these standards daily.  Too much for kindergarten?  NO WAY!  We reason with each other, discuss our problem solving strategies, and challenge each other when we disagree (respectfully).  There is nothing sweeter than hearing a 5 year old say, "I disagree agree with you because...."  Seriously, have you ever heard a 5 year disagree in such a nice way? 

How will I ever fit it in? 

 My math journal routine takes about 10 minutes.  Of course we can take longer if time allows but if we are pressed for time we can do it in 10.  I like to have 15 to 20 minutes for math journals. 

Where do I start? 

Start with routines.  Using the journal, opening to the next page, recording takes weeks to get the basics down but it's not difficult!  We spend about 3 to 4 weeks opening to our next new clean page in the journal, counting a handful of objects, and recording them.  During this time we discuss making clear pictures to represent our objects and the fact that we do not need to draw PERFECT pictures of our objects.  This is not art class or writer's workshop.  We can draw a circle to represent a counting bear or a square to represent a building block.  This takes a little time but they get really good at it! 

   What do we do in our journals?

We solve problems!  Every. Single. Day.  Sounds boring right?  Not if you get the students involved!  I write problems of the day for my students and  I include their names and their favorite things to get them engaged.  Here is an example.  My friend Emily loved playing dress up, so she helped me write this problem: 
The problems are printed on regular paper and students glue them into their journal to save time. (Can you imagine 24 Kindergarten students writing out that problem?  Oh my.....too much time!) 

This student was using the tally mark strategy to show their thinking.  They also circled their numbers to show the two groups of dresses.  The only thing missing from this picture is the total number of dresses, and I'm sure I discussed this with them after I snapped the picture!

Here is our outline of our daily routine: 
  • listen to the problem of the day
  • glue the problem of the day into your journal
  • draw a picture and write the answer to the problem of the day
  • (later in the year) write words to answer the problem of the day
 I have put all of my favorite story problems together for Kindergarten HERE and also a detailed outline of how I get things started.
I've included labels for your math journals and an editable page that you can write your own problems on when you are ready to start using your kiddos for the problem of the day.  

Do you use math journals?  How do you use them?  I'd love to hear about your favorite part of math journals!