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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Understanding Grades

What’s my average?

I can’t even tell you how many times I get asked that question by my students.  In one sense, it’s great that the students care about their grades.  On the other hand, this question drives me crazy…and it’s my own fault.

My first 2 years teaching, I had each of my students keep personal grade sheets.  My students knew that every time they got an assignment back they had to record it on their grade sheet and recalculate their average.  It took a couple of weeks of me helping the students, but after the first few weeks of school, it became second nature for my students and they all knew their averages in my class all of the time.  I did not ever have students asking me what their grade was…and it was great!  The most wonderful thing about this system, I found, however, was that the kids really understood their grades in my class.  They “got it” that a daily warmup worth 2 points would barely affect their grade, but that a test would heavily influence their grade.  They understood exactly how they got the grade that they did on their report cards.  My absolute favorite was when some of my better students would actually calculate exactly what grade they needed to get on their next test or quiz to maintain a certain average.  To me that showed true understanding of the point system and averages.

gradesheet example

Soo…you might be wondering why I stopped having my students keep grade sheets….

My 3rd year teaching, my school adopted a new online grade book where the students and parents were able to see their grades on all assignments, as well as their average in the class, at any given time.  I figured that since the online gradebook showed everything I had the students record on their grade sheets, there was no purpose in having them continue to keep track of their grades on their own.

I realize now (in my 6th year of teaching), that it was a mistake on my part to drop the gradesheets.  Yes, my students can login and see their grades online but (a) many don’t check, and (b) the ones who do check don’t have the same understanding of their grades that my former students did.  Not since my 2nd year teaching have I had a student understand their grade well enough to tell me that they need to get a 92 on their next test to end up with an “A” average, and I miss those conversations.

My school year is broken up into trimesters and the 2nd trimester is ending next week.  I will be bringing back the grade sheets 3rd trimester and can’t wait to (hopefully) see an improvement of understanding of grades in my students!

student grade sheet

Click the image above to download this free student grade sheet!

Thanks for reading,

Christina

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