Mathematical Communication is a developing collection of resources for engaging students in writing and speaking about mathematics, whether for the purpose of learning mathematics or of learning to communicate as mathematicians.

Revising Writing

Revision is an important part of the writing process, but many undergraduates are not yet aware of its value. The following teaching strategies may help students to revise effectively:

  • To help undergraduates to see the value of revision, consider describing your own writing process. By showing students an early draft and a later draft of your own writing, you can draw attention to those aspects of writing that you consider to be most important. See, for example, the description of Pedro Reis’ writing workshop.
  • Include revision in the assignment schedule.
  • Here is one example of how to grade a draft to reward effort while encouraging revision.
  • Students sometimes revise only superficially, even when large-scale changes would be more appropriate. See the discussion about how to encourage substantial revision (on the page about giving feedback on writing).
  • Different writers make different mistakes, so encourage students to develop and personalize an editing checklist to use in the final round of revision–this list might include such items as “fix curly quotes” or “check that ‘this’ and ‘it’ have clear antecedents.”

Resources for students (and teachers)

  • MIT’s Project Laboratory in Mathematics has a  list of revision strategies students may use to revise research paper drafts.
  • Here is a highlighted revision of an article draft that illustrates how pulling a lemma out of a proof made the proof easier to follow.
  • Stephen Maurer’s Undergraduate Guide to Writing Mathematics contains a helpful chapter on revision, written to an audience of students. Includes examples.
  • Patrick Bahls’ Student Writing in the Quantitative Disciplines: A Guide for College Faculty contains a chapter on writing process that provides strategies for
    • prewriting to generate, sift through, and organize ideas
    • drafting, reviewing, and revising
    • designing assignments that support students through the writing process

    Proof-writing is used as an example.

  • Dave Richeson has a blog post on Editing Mathematical Writing, which includes a checklist for students.


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