Writing in Math Class: Favorite Shape

I love giving short writing assignments to my math classes.  It’s a great way to get students engaged in mathematics in a different way, and it gives me a different window into how my students think and who they are.

Here’s a prompt I gave them recently.

Draw a shape that you like.  Write 1-2 complete sentences explaining what this shape is and why it appeals to you.

This simple prompt was something of an afterthought on a recent assignment, but as usual, the students surprised me with their responses.  Here are some of my favorites.

I like the square because of how organized it is.

The triangle appeals to me because it is the shape of things I love to eat, like a slice of pizza or a piece of cake or pie.

A rhombus is different from other shapes, but so alike.  It shows how a little change can make a new shape.

Circles appeal to me because they have infinite lines of symmetry.

This is a circle.  It has no corners and is symmetrical.  This shape is appealing because it feels open, and since there are no corners, there are no sharp edges to hurt you.

This shape is a circle.  It appeals to me because, as weird as it sounds, I want my life to be as perfect and as well-rounded as a circle.

A triangle is simple.  It has the least number of sides a polygon needs.

I like the square because I like things to be equal, not different.

I’m always smiling, laughing, and thinking after reading what students have to write.  There are lots of great reasons to get students writing in math class, so give it a try!  You can find more resources here.

Categories: AppreciationTeaching

Sendhil Revuluri · September 24, 2014 at 9:44 am

Thanks for sharing the student responses! One follow-up prompt that comes to mind is to give one student’s response to another, and pose the question: “Unfortunately, this person’s favorite shape is out of stock at the Shape Store [or I suppose for this generation, Shapes.com]. Based on their response, recommend another shape they might like, and give them some reasons to pick your recommendation.”

MrHonner · September 24, 2014 at 10:05 am

That’s a terrific next step! Thanks for sharing, Sendhil.

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