Teacher Helpline: How Can I Use Journals in Math Class?

“I am finishing my first year of teaching ninth grade Algebra 1 and I was really dissatisfied with the way[…]Continue Reading

“I am finishing my first year of teaching ninth grade Algebra 1 and I was really dissatisfied with the way my students kept up (or didn’t keep up) with their notes and homework. I’m looking into interactive math journals, where we’ll put all notes, homework, etc. into the journal so they (hopefully!) will keep up with them. Any ideas of how to start? I’m getting a little overwhelmed with the idea of starting something BRAND NEW in my classroom. Thanks!”

Great question, Lauren! We’ve heard many teachers say that journals are key in getting students to become more sophisticated mathematical thinkers. And with the advent of the Common Core State Standards, you’ll be doing your students a favor by incorporating more writing into your curriculum. Here’s what our trusty helpliners had to say about getting started with math journals:

  • I recommend using three-ring binders for your journals. Include a blank page at the beginning to use as a table of contents that students can fill in as they go. Every grading period, give a “notebook grade” and award points for neatness and organization. And remember—nothing works as good as good old fashioned handwritten notebooks! Especially in math. The brain remembers what the hand writes down. —Meg N.
  • You need to attach a grade to the notebook/binder. I require all of my students to have their notes, bell ringers, handouts, homework, and planner in a binder. Everything needs to be in the rings of the binder as well. I do random binder checks…even shaking the binders to make sure nothing falls out. —Brian H.
  • Keep a notebook yourself as a model. This helps students who are absent to get missing work and notes and also helps those who fall behind. I’ve been doing it for years. —Tamara C.
  • Try giving an open-journal quiz once a month! It’s a great way to review concepts and hold students accountable for their notes. I find it easier than giving students a grade for their journals. –Jeongah L.
  • Create a rubric for the expectation of notes, note taking, and participation. Every so often create an “open notebook test”. My rule in class is that if I write it on the board, it should go in their notebook. —Corin D.

Do you have any more recommendations for Lauren? Please share them in the comments!