What is the point of notebooks?

My 9th graders have strong mathematical skills, compared to the typical NYC public school student.  However, most have no idea how to study for a math test, a skill fundamentally different than studying for a history or english test.  In my first year of teaching, I did little to help them in this area.

My first shot at improving on this will be to work on how I use notebooks in class.  My students notebooks this past year were a mishmash of notes interspersed with half-correct problems that students had no easy way of revisiting.

I tried to use notebooks as a little bit of everything:

  • a record of everything that happened in class
  • a set of completed problems with all intermediate steps shown
  • notes about math theory or math procedure
  • scratch work
  • space for reflection and revision
  • acting as study guide and/or textbook

It was way too much.  This coming year, I think I will try to take inspiration from Interactive Notebooks and $1 Textbooks.  In the ideal world, I would love to see my student’s notebooks from each day consist of three parts:  a problem or two completed by the teacher –> informal practice work by student –> formal write-up of a problem or two completed by student.  The first and third parts could then be something that the student could directly revisit when studying for a test.


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