Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Math Journals

Teaching 4th grade in Nevada means teaching the dreaded constructed response math questions for our state test.  One thing that I have been trying in my class that has been very successful is the making a MESS model for problem solving.

As you can see from the anchor chart the MESS acronym stands for:

M - Model
E - Equation
S- Solution
S- Sentence
The students learn to use the acronym to help them set up a written response to a math problem so that they not only know where to start, but also all of the parts to include.  It is really easy to remember and they LOVE the idea of being encouraged to "Make a Mess".

I started my students off with the anchor chart above, then gave them my math journals which are set up using this method, and include 4 math prompts for each standard.  I print out the ones that my students need to work on most and place them in a folder for math journal time.

This student started to divide the given numbers (963/10) but then raised her hand and asked if she could round first.  I told her, "Try it!" 

The students become better and better at writing responses as we share methods and responses throughout the year.  Towards the end of the year in preparation for testing, I start giving them prompts without the model to guide them.  After working with the MESS model all year, they know what to do, and are better prepared. I really emphasize perseverance and trying things out before raising their hands to ask for help.  I compare it to a video game.  I say, "If you don't pass a level on a video game, you don't call me up and ask for help, you try something different, you persevere until you figure it out.  That is exactly what mathematicians do!"

I have been blown away by some of the feedback

that I have received!

Grade Level Math Journals Available:

1st Grade Math Journal

2nd Grade Math Journal

4th Grade Math Journal

5th Grade Math Journal

Math Journal - Sixth Grade Math Journal Prompts Aligned to

6th Grade Math Journal

Here are a few links with sample constructed response questions

FREE ~ Math Journal labels ~ Math Notebook product from Amy-Alvis on TeachersNotebook.com

I am linking up with Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried It Tuesday.  Head over there for some other amazing ideas, or to share something you have tried recently!

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 I would love to hear from you! ❤️

Have a question? Idea for a resource you might find helpful?

Be so kind and leave a comment below.


  1. Written response to math questions is by far the hardest part for my kiddos. I struggle so much with the gifted kids because they have already solved something in their head and are ready to move on. They don't like when I make them dig deeper and expand. Of course...that might be true of many other children also. I really like your acronym. Maybe this will help with the l-a-z-y!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  2. We have the dreaded written responses in math too:( I love your MESS acronym! Thanks for linking up! :)
    Fourth Grade Flipper


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