Building Enduring Mathematical Understanding, one lesson at a time.

MS Sunday Funday: “My Own Math” Notebooks

For the past few years I have required my students to have either a spiral notebook, a composition notebook, or a three-pronged pocket folder filled with paper. I have provided them one if they do not have one (finding the penny or dime deals) but I have not collected many from the sales this summer. I do have some useable three-pronged folders to hand out for those in need. Most students end up using more than one during the year, but I do not have them “start over” each quarter or semester. They just start a new one whenever the finish one off. (I had some sixth grade girls that wrote microscopically last year and were able to finish the year using only one notebook, but that is the exception.)

My notebooks are not so much “interactive,” but EVERYTHING goes in their notebook, with the exception of assessments (which are stored in class, in their math portfolios.) Students record daily learning targets, vocabulary, responses to class activities, partner activities, writing prompts, whiteboard activities (paper and pencil first), practice problems, homework, and I am sure some other things I left off the list. We also do activities that are entirely hands on and/or verbal. (They are usually quite excited when I tell them they DON’T have to write it down.) Each day they record the date along with “Today’s Targets” and start where they left off. I do have handouts, etc. for them to “attach” to their notebooks. I have used both glue sticks and mini-staplers in the past, but I “inherited” a bunch of rolls of masking tape from a retiring teacher, and I think I have found a way to make good use of that gift!

There are a few new features I plan to add this year. Unless students have the three-pronged pocket folder, I will be giving them a piece cut from an old file folder (another “inheritance”) to tape on the inside of the front and back covers. This will serve to hold handouts temporarily if there is not enough time to attach them in class that day. It will also store a few “ongoing handouts” that I use for formative assessments. These are one page “booklets” (folded the hamburger way) that have space for eight responses. Students will turn them in on days we use them and receive them back with feedback the next day to store for the next use. Another item to be stored in their “pocket” is a homework log on which they record the time spent on homework each day along with a parent signature. I will collect these weekly and return each Monday.

I also am working on designing a generic “foldable” for vocabulary (“Words of the Day.”) I will probably modify the Frayer Model that has been mentioned by others, as my vocab slides include definitions, examples, non-examples and use in a sentence. I do like the idea of including “characteristics” as well. The “tri-fold” below allows either the word OR the definition to be folded on top, so students can quiz themselves either way.


Students will store “blanks” in their “pockets” and pull one out whenever we need them.

Last year I collected notebooks every few weeks. (I had fewer students than I will this year.) I am not sure it was worth the time I spent creating a checklist and paging through them. I use Standards Based Grading, so their notebook is not actually part of their grade. It is important for students to understand the idea that the value in the notebook is in the thinking and recording that happens as they create the notebook, and the resource it becomes for them as they progress through math, not the “points” they earn. Some students need gentle reminders to stay focused, record their ideas, and show their work, whether I collect their notebook or not. The physical and verbal cues I give them in class do more than written comments at the end if the week. We will see how well it works if I don’t collect them this year. 🙂

I guess that last paragraph sums up the Enduring Mathematical Understanding that I want them to learn from using notebooks. The math they learn is THEIR OWN. They are in control of their own thinking, their own ideas, and their own strategies, as well as what they gain from others. Their notebook is a place to store all that they learn!

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8 thoughts on “MS Sunday Funday: “My Own Math” Notebooks

  1. Pingback: Math Class Notebooks – MS Sunday Funday | I Speak Math

  2. Kristin on said:

    Your notebooks sound a lot like mine. I don’t have the folder part but I think I might do that, too. So many times I tell them to just slide a paper in their notebook and we will tape it in tomorrow.
    Also I like the homework log. Can you give more details about that?

    • Hi Kristin,

      I am excited about the “pocket” part for this year. I hope it cuts down on “lost” papers/handouts.

      I have been formulating the idea of a “homework log” over the summer. I know our Reading teachers have the students fill out a Reading Log, so it is not an entirely “new idea.” I want middle school parents to continue to be involved in their student’s learning, and just being aware of how much time they spend on homework and whether they even DO homework is a start. Too often they are told by their student, “I don’t have any homework!” or “I already finished it.” This will at least require a cursory glance to see the work on paper. (Of course, if they sign off without looking at it that requires another type of conversation.)

      In addition, I would like to know how much time students are actually spending on homework. If certain students are spending far too much time, then I would like to address either (a) if there are distractions surrounding them as they complete the work or (b) if the work is too challenging and they need to come in for some extra help. If the whole class is spending “hours” on homework each night, I would like to adjust the assignments accordingly. On the flip side, if there are students who are not “finding” time outside of class to complete it, I will be more than willing to provide them the time (before school, after school or during lunch) and sign off their log myself 🙂

      It will be a simple table with the following column headings: Date, Assignment, Start Time, End Time, Student Initial, Parent Initial, Teacher Initial. I only assign homework on M – Th, so one sheet might last the whole quarter? Students who don’t turn it in on Friday or who have incomplete work will receive a parent email. We will see how it works. I do SBG grading, so homework doesn’t count as a part of their grade. That seems to be a reason for eight graders (but not so much sixth graders) to “decide” not to complete homework – and their parents are often entirely unaware! 😦

      Yikes, this is practically a post itself!

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

      Sent from my iPad

      • Its weird how similar our classes sound. So many of my students don’t do their homework because it was only 5% of their grade. I actually had a student tell me their parent said not to worry about the homework, just do well on the tests. So frustrating. The log idea sounds good. I might give it a try. Thanks!

      • I have yet to solve the “homework problem” with eighth graders, but I keep trying out new ideas to see if they work.

        I am also contemplating a “No Homework Notice” GoogleDocs form, but I think I will try that with my Algebra 8 students and do the Log with my “Regular” Math 8 kids.

        I can’t believe a parent did that! Well, actually, sadly, I can 😦

  3. Pingback: msSunFun: Homework Hassles « findingEMU

  4. Pingback: Made4Math Monday: Formative Assessment Forms « findingEMU

  5. Why users still use to read news papers when in this technological word the whole thing is existing on net?

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