Two Truths and a Lie

A Lesson on “Giving Your Why”

Reading in Math? A Tale from Someone Who Survived it Moving Writers

  1. Reading in Math? A Tale from Someone Who Survived it
  2. Two Truths and a Lie "A Lesson on Giving Your Why"
  3. Becoming an "Expert"

Two Truths and a Lie A Lesson on “Giving Your Why”

Ralph Fletcher has been quoted saying, “You don’t learn to write by going through a series of preset writing exercises… you learn to write by grappling with real subjects that truly matter to you.” 

Ralph’s thinking sparked my curiosity into a world of writing in math. Truthfully, I am a recovering self-proclaimed “reading/writing girl”- let me explain. In school oftentimes you fall in two camps: I’m good at math OR I’m good at reading. Occasionally you will find an anomaly that likes both, but in my 25 years of academia I will tell you those are hard to find. 

I am here today to tell you it is possible.

I remember in elementary school math I would answer a question and my teacher would say, “How did you get that answer?” I loathed that question because I had a fixed mindset, so I automatically shut down and decided I didn’t actually understand at all (even if that was untrue). Secondly, I never was trained how to explain my why in the math classroom.

Going back into the text and citing it to help support your claim is a routine check for understanding in ELA. But in math we are rarely taught how to go back in the text and analyze our thinking. 

When I introduce evidence-based writing,  I start with an activity called Two Truths and a Lie. This is writing real life experiences through our math lens. Although I have used this many times in my ELA classroom,  this specific strategy I took from @mathequalslove many years ago to adapt to my grade-level math bandwidth.

Day One: Setting the Stage 

I begin with offering students two truths and a lie about me: 

  1. I have been to Buckingham Palace where the Queen of England lives
  2. I have broken 5 bones 
  3. I have visited Kenya where my good friend Sarah lives

Students take a few minutes to read my truths and lie and decide which one they think is a lie and give their “why”. I really encourage them to have a reason. The interesting part is how they come up with their reasoning. Their reasoning normally falls into three camps:

  1. Debunking the lie by listing the reasons why it is a lie 
  2. Giving evidence of why the other ones have to be true
  3. Supporting evidence for both the lie and the truths 

My kiddos love this activity. They really think they have me pegged when they come up with their reasoning. I even have caught them defending their thinking to their neighbors who have different thinking. 

These are excellent ways of analyzing how students go about rationalizing their thinking with evidence. Students turn and talk about their evidence of which one is their lie and then we share them out loud. Then the reveal. (In case you were wondering I have sadly never visited my friend Sarah in Kenya… although I hope to soon.) 

There are many things you can use their truths for in future writing pieces. I used to have my students write a quick narrative piece on one of their truths. I gave them ten minutes to work through it. I use it to talk about adding dialogue or figurative language. I also used it to discuss craft. See article below for additional extension activities. 

Day Two: Two Truths and a Lie 

Students create their own two truths and a lie. Students write their two truths and a lie in their writers notebooks. If students have trouble coming up with their lies, I often have them refer to one of their truths and change details to it to create a lie. Students share their two truths and a lie either aloud with the class or on a class Padlet depending on how much time we have in class. Then students take turns explaining their “why” reasoning when identifying their classmates truths/lies. 

Next, we introduce our thinking to the context of our classroom. Because I teach math I introduce the students to “Two Truths and a Lie” math style. You don’t have to teach math to teach this strategy. This strategy is extremely helpful in aiding students to problem solve and understand  their evidence. 

Below is an example of a problem I would have my students solve:

(Math example) 

Students go through the problems given and follow the Depth of Knowledge thinking below. 

Students prove their thinking by using DOK level 3 standards


Students go through each math question above (or one like it) to prove with a logical argument and evidence why that problem is a truth or a lie. In my math class, students worked through the mathematical problems to draw conclusions on the truths and lies. 

In the social studies and science classes, students draw on their content related vocabulary and understanding of the content. 

Example of 5th Grade Science/SS 

Here is a blank template for your use. 

Give Your Why 

In math, evidence can be presented in many different “ways”, but the reasoning behind our “why” has to be embedded with provable data. This is just another activity and example of how to get our students to give their why by proving they are the expert. 

You may be thinking right about now… I’m not a math teacher I shouldn’t have to… or I’m a ELA teacher I shouldn’t have to… but what if we reimagined our classrooms to be places where our students’ words filled the air? What if we thought about less of what specific content HAS to be taught and created a place where we could just learn? This would help build relationships between contents and use more parts of our students’ brains. 

What if we read and wrote in math? 

I hope you jump on this journey with me. 

How could you implement two truths and a lie into your content area? What has worked in the past and hasn’t? Please reach out with questions, reflections, and connections in the comments below or on Twitter @Mrsablund 

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