Ideas for Setting Up Math Notebooks

With all the buzz on interactive notebooks lately, I thought I’d share how I do notebooks in my math classes for people who are looking for an alternative to cutting and pasting foldables into a notebook.

ideas for setting up math notebooks

I have gone back and forth a few times between having my students use binders or notebooks, but for the past few years I have gone with 3-subject spiral notebooks.  They are a good size and I like that they have built-in dividers with pockets and the fact that pages can be neatly torn out when needed thanks to the perforation.

The front section of the 3-subject notebook is used for notes.  The middle section is for classwork and homework.  The back section is used for scrap paper or looseleaf if I want something torn out and handed in.  I like to set it up this way so that the front section is a nice, organized resource they can use to refresh their memory on how to do something without having to root through pages of work.  (It also makes checking their notes easier when they are all in one place)!   I also like the fact that the students are not staring at their notes when they go to do their classwork or homework, so they can try the problems on their own, but they can easily flip back if they need to reference the notes.

Taking notes in my class is mandatory.  Each day (in the “notes” section of the notebook), students are required to (1) title the notes with the day’s topic, (2) write the date, (3) write a summary/explanation of how to do the day’s lesson, and (4) give an example, solved correctly and showing all work. Here is a sample of what I expect in a day’s notes for a lesson on subtracting decimals:

math notes example

I collect notebooks on chapter test days and grade the “notes” section while my students are taking the test.  I collect on test days so that students make sure they have all their notes in order (and hopefully look them over) before taking the test and because they obviously don’t need their notebooks while they are taking the test.  Notes are worth 20 points per chapter and I grade them using the following rubric:

pic of rubric

Click here for the pdf version of my notebook rubric

Click here for the editable version.

Most of my students are pretty good about taking good notes since it is a big part of their grade.  They know that simply taking good notes each day in class is an easy way to get a 20/20 averaged into their grade each chapter, which is a good motivator for most students!

For classified students with special note-taking requirements in their IEP’s, I provide guided notes on which they basically just need to fill in the blanks, but the guided notes I give are in the same general format with both explanations and examples each day.  I also save the notes I write on my interactive whiteboard each day and share them with my classified students on Google Drive.  That way if they weren’t able to finish filling in their note sheets in class, they can fill them in at a later time.

I am in the process of typing up my guided notes and making them a little nicer.  (As I complete sets, I am putting them in my TpT store along with practice sheets and application sheets that correspond to the lessons).  You can grab my set of notes, practice sheets, and application sheets on simplifying algebraic expressions free for the next few days!  Click  the image below to get this set while it’s free!

simplifying expressions pack pic1

How do you handle note-taking in your math class?  I would love to hear ideas from other teachers!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

 

(Also, all paid items in my TpT store are on sale today, August 19th for 28% off with code MORE15)!!

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Tips for an Organized Dismissal Time

Organization has never been my strength as a teacher…(it’s a rare day when my desk isn’t covered in papers)…but every year I get a little bit better about it.  It only took me 6 years to get my dismissal routine organized in a way I am happy with! 

I’m not sure how dismissal works at other schools but at my school students are dismissed from homeroom one bus at a time (always in the same order), then car riders, then extended day students, and then clubs.  I’m responsible for making sure my homeroom students leave the classroom at the appropriate time.

I always take a couple of minutes on the first day to ask students how they typically go home (which bus they are on, if they are a car rider or walker, etc.)  I record this information on the following chart, which I keep in my teacher binder.   (You can download it free by clicking the picture below).

student transportation

Students are required to bring in notes if they are going home a different way on any given day, so I get a bunch of notes each day.  This is where my organization fell apart…until I figured out the following system a couple of years ago:

  • I make a typical dismissal list on the left side of a piece of paper.  I list each bus in the order they are called, car riders, and extended day.  Under each one, I list the students who typically go home that way.
  • I title the right side of the paper “changes” and leave it blank.
  • I have an awesome 2-pocket folder with a clear-view cover that I got from Staples a few years ago.  I slide my Dismissal sheet in the cover spot of that folder.
  • When I collect change of dismissal notes in the morning I write the changes on the cover with a dry-erase marker.  If the note applies to more than just one day (i.e. “Susie will be car rider today and tomorrow”) I stick the note in one of the pockets in the folder so I have it for the next day.
  • I keep a monthly calendar of after school clubs/activities in the other pocket, along with a list of who in my class is in each club.  If I have students going to a club one day, I record that on my “changes” list for the day, as well.
Organized Dismissal Folder Dry Erase Changes| Math in the Middle Blog

Cover of my Dismissal Folder

 

Organized Dismissal Folder Dry Erase Changes| Math in the Middle Blog

Inside of my Dismissal Folder

At the end of the day, I grab my folder and am ready to monitor dismissal and make sure everyone is leaving when they should be.  I simply wipe off the changes each day and write the new changes…simple and effective!

You can download the FREE monthly calendar (weekdays only) I use to record after-school activities by clicking the picture below.

 calendar

 Thanks for reading,

Christina

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Making Middle School Students Better Problem Solvers

When am I ever going to use this?”

It’s the question every math teacher is asked, and while it may be annoying to hear, it is a good, valid question.  It’s important for students to understand the reasons behind the math they are learning and that they know how to apply it to real-world situations.  That’s why I consider problem solving to be the single most important part of my math classes.  I place a lot of emphasis on word problems in my daily classes, in my homework assignments, and on my tests.

Making Middle School Students Better Problem Solvers  Math in the Middle

I typically assign a workbook page to my students each night for homework.  My textbook series is pretty good about making sure each workbook page contains a couple of word problems, which is great, but there is one big flaw.  If I am teaching a lesson on adding fractions, the workbook page contains a page full of fraction addition problems and two word problems on the bottom that require students to, (you guessed it), add fractions.  To me, that isn’t problem solving.  Students know without even reading the problem that they will need to add fractions because that is what the lesson was on.  It’s good for them to see examples of how adding fractions is applied to real world situations, so I have students complete those problems, but it isn’t enough to make the students better problem solvers.

A few years ago I decided that I would have my students complete one word problem a day that wasn’t related to the day’s lesson.  One problem that would make the kids have to stop and think about how to solve it, because to me, that is how students become better problem solvers.

180 Daily Middle School Word Problems| Problem of the Day| Math in the Middle

I wrote 180 daily word problems for my advanced 6th grade math class and put the problems in both PowerPoint and printable forms.  I either project the PowerPoint version of the word problem of the day as a do now or assign the printable version for homework, but every day my students are solving a  multi-step word problem unrelated to the day’s lesson.  Since it covers a topic they previously learned, it is also serves as a form of spiral review.  Sometimes I collect the students’ work to see how each student solved the problem and sometimes we discuss them and compare/contrast strategies.

180 Daily Middle School Word Problems| Problem of the Day| Math in the MIddle

I have my students solve the problems using a four-step plan, which I say is EESE (pronounced easy):

  • Explore – read the problem & identify any important information in it
  • Estimate – approximate the answer using rounding and/or common sense
  • Solve – solve the problem
  • Examine – see if the answer makes sense, see if it’s close to their estimate, and make sure it’s labeled

To download a FREE double-sided weekly sheet students can use to complete a Problem of the Day using the 4 step plan, click the image below.

pod work sheet

Since I have started my problem of the day program, I have seen a huge increase in both my students’ willingness to attempt word problems and their success in solving them.

180 Daily Middle School Word Problems| Problem of the Day| Math in the Middle

If you are interested in my 180 Daily Middle School Word Problems, you can pick them up in my TpT store.  They are typically $12, but are on sale today and tomorrow for 28% off with code BTS15.  If you want to try them out before buying the set, you can download 10 days free!

 

What do you do to make your students better problem solvers?  The first 3 people to respond with their problem solving strategies (and give their email address) will get a free copy of my first set of 45 Daily Middle School Word Problems!

 

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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