Math Notebook Questions

End of the year reflection time.


In my 7 years of teaching, I’ve never required my students to have a math notebook. The sum total of my speaking on the subject is probably a couple of minutes at the beginning of year, “You need a math notebook or binder to write notes in and keep handouts for class.” Then throughout the year some minor reminders to take out your notebook and we can write some stuff down. With the SBG hoopla this year, I gave out manila folders for the students to keep their old concept quizzes and their grade sheet in. That’s about it.

I’ve never:

Have I made an error? Is it worth my valuable time and effort to get the students to construct and maintain a math notebook? Now that I have a 1:1 student:computer ratio should I move in the electronic notes direction? What advice do you have for me? No judgement on my behalf; I’m just wondering if I should change the way I do things.

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6 Responses to Math Notebook Questions

  1. joshg says:

    I don’t have experience here, just second-hand suggestions from another good teacher I’ve talked to about it.

    You could get students to actually discuss what notes are for, and what makes a set of notes “good” vs “bad”. The thing I had suggested was to ease into it, have premade notes for the first few big topics, then gradually hand that responsibility over. (Middle steps can include discussing how one would write up a useful summary for a student who wasn’t present; having a designated note-taker create shared notes for all; have students collaborate on notes via a wiki or google doc.)

    I’ve tried using premade notes with blanks to fill in and empty space for examples done in class. I’m not convinced it was a fantastic idea. If I do go that route next time (vs the stuff suggested above), I think what I’d try doing is only giving them the notes template *after* I’m done talking.

    • Dan says:

      Yea I’ve done pre-made fill-in-the-blank notes a couple of years ago, and I wasn’t happy with them.
      I’ve heard the collaborate google docs notes idea before, and I wonder how that would work with math with so many equations and diagrams. Would the students be quick enough entering the information?

  2. I’m making a big change after years of frustration that students 1) don’t refer to their notes to study, 2) can’t read their notes, and 3) heck, who am I kidding? most don’t even have notes.

    After peeking over the fence into Sciencetown, I’ve grown enamored with the interactive notebook ( Like you, I’ve never done binder checks and such, so the interactive notebook has me more than a little worried about being too high maintenance.

    I will say this about the science INs I’ve seen — they’re all in one place, reasonably complete, and have a built-in peer mechanism to answer “what did we do yesterday?”

    • Dan says:

      I wonder how the notes on a computer would work for math that requires an equation editor and some sort of drawing tool for all the material.
      I too am battling the fact that the vast majority don’t refer back to their notes unless explicitly told to do so. Hmm.

      • No worries on the computer notebook — what I’m suggesting requires just a composition book. Right hand pages belong to the teacher for notes, problems, organizers, questions… Left hand pages belong to the student for reflections, sense-making, homework…

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