Examining Fourth-Grade Mathematics Writing: Features of Organization, Mathematics Vocabulary, and Mathematical Representations


Increasingly, students are expected to write about mathematics. Mathematics writing may be informal (e.g., journals, exit slips) or formal (e.g., writing prompts on high-stakes mathematics assessments). To develop an effective mathematics-writing intervention, research needs to be conducted on how students organize mathematics writing and use writing features to convey mathematics knowledge. The authors collected mathematics-writing samples from 155 fourth-grade students in two states. Each student wrote about a computation word problem and fraction representations. The authors compared mathematics-writing samples to a norm-referenced measure of essay writing to examine similarities in how students use writing features such as introductions, conclusions, paragraphs, and transition words. The authors also analyzed the mathematics vocabulary terms that students incorporated within their writing and whether mathematics computation skills were related to the mathematics vocabulary students used in writing. Finally, the authors coded and described how students used mathematics representations in their writing. Findings indicate that students use organizational features of writing differently across the norm-referenced measure of essay writing and their mathematics writing. Students also use mathematics vocabulary and representations with different levels of success. Implications for assessment, practice, and intervention development are discussed.


Hebert, M. A., & Powell, S. R. (2016). Examining fourth-grade mathematics writing: Features of organization, mathematics vocabulary, and mathematical representations. Reading and Writing, 29(7), 1511–1537. doi:10.1007/s11145-016-9649-5