Research Explores Using Writing, Drawing to Learn Math

June 25, 2019 | Education | Kim Strobel

As a young girl, Debbie Muthersbaugh was full of wonder, curiosity and confidence. “Although I enjoyed school and the many things I was learning, something peculiar and confusing slowly unfolded when I began trying to solve certain math problems,” wrote Muthersbaugh in the introduction to her new book, Using Journals in Elementary Mathematics: Writing and Representing for Understanding. “I noticed that some story problems and calculations didn’t even makes sense to me. It wasn’t until years later early in my college career that I realized that I could learn more effectively by visualizing, analyzing and communicating.”

As a result of this insight and after many years of teaching in elementary and middle grades, Muthersbaugh, who is now dean of the School of Education and Psychology at Walla Walla University, decided to pursue graduate research in how using representation through drawings and symbols, as well as writing skills, might be an effective method for teaching math.

Using Journals in Elementary Mathematics provides elementary teachers with tools and ideas for implementing math journals in their own classrooms. Muthersbaugh’s recommendations can help teachers boost mathematical confidence and develop mathematical thinking in their students by helping them solve problems while articulating and reflecting on their own thinking and learning.

Using Journals in Elementary Mathematics is available at