Math Notebook – How We Keep One
We use base ten blocks as the foundation of our math program. We don’t use worksheets. I am not working page by page through a curriculum, which is fantastic for me. I love it. But when it comes time for record keeping this poses a problem. In the beginning of our base ten blocks journey, I decided to keep an interactive math notebook. My first attempt lasted about 3 weeks. It was a great idea, but what happened was that I spend a lot of time cutting and pasting into a notebook for my pre-k/k son. I am not a scissors and glue kind of girl. I needed a new plan. When P. gets older, I can imagine that my 1st attempt may be more appropriate, but not right now. The problem I found with interactive math notebooks online is that they aren’t, well, interactive. They are glorified worksheets cut and pasted into a notebook.
There are several issues I face with record keeping. I am nearly 50 years old. I am starting my homeschooling journey from the very beginning. I graduated one and a year later started pre-k with another. I am old enough to know what I will and will not do. I have limitations as a human being. I used to be ashamed of my limitations and make solemn promises to overcome my nature, but I don’t anymore. That is the gift you get when you turn 40. Here are my limitations:
- I hate record keeping.
- I hate pieces. I hate tiny pieces of stuff that end up all over my house. Legos are tolerated as they can be contained. Blocks can be contained. Everything else, if found loose, goes in the garbage.
- I hate details. I am a big picture kind of person.
- I don’t like having stuff here and stuff there. I want everything in one easy to use place.
- Whatever I do must be simple to maintain or I won’t do it. Some people love the complicated stuff. I hate it.
Bullet Journal To the Rescue
After many attempts to find a system to organize my life I found this. The Bullet Journal works for me. This was right up my alley. No upfront organization. No smartphone to deal with. As life happens you write it down and everything is kept for you in an all glorious index. Can you hear the angels singing? One $.97 graph-paper notebook from Wally World and my life was magically transformed.
I wanted to combine this concept of journaling as it happens with an interactive math notebook. Yet I didn’t want to be a slave to scissors and glue. I also wanted it to be truly interactive. I wanted it to be something we use; something we can pull off the shelf, grab our blocks and know we have everything we need to do math that day. If we decide to do math in the park or car school, we have more than enough to keep us busy. This is my answer. No small pieces. No detailed record keeping. And we are creating a book that belongs to my son that is a truly interactive math notebook, one that we use.
Math Notebook 2.o
I chose to go with a spiral bound sketch book that you can get from the stuff mart or your local five and dime. The one we have is an 81/2 x 11. It was around $5. There was a 9 x 12. If I had it to do over, I would choose that one. I have to cut everything down to fit into ours. The pages are a bit sturdier than a composition book or a regular notebook. If you are going to actually use the book, that is essential. Here is my glorious index. Notice the mistake in black, we don’t care. We just cross it off and move along.
I don’t have a lot in this book. We actually do most of our work on the first page which is 1 cm graph paper.
We use this clock as well, and I like that it is in the notebook and I don’t have to go looking for it. However, if you put a clock in your math notebook or anything else that requires paper fasteners, put those in the beginning pages. Once you use paper fastener subsequent pages will not lay flat when the book is folded in half. This is easily solved by spreading the notebook out. But it is not ideal.
We have several games tucked in the notebook which we can play with Cuisenaire Rods: the Apple Game and Capture the Flag. But we also have this traditional game of Snakes and Ladders. All I need is a die and a couple pennies and we are good to go. Usually, he would rather play games of his own making.
We have sets of activity cards we use with our notebook. If I don’t have a plan for the day, he can choose an activity. Most of the activity cards use the graph paper.
As far as the record keeping part, I keep that in a separate notebook. Right now, a couple times a week, I will write down his oral work with the blocks. I keep a daily log of what we worked on in my homeschool bullet journal which is also a cheap composition book. Did I mention I love, love, love composition books?
This is our system. As I find more pages of fun math type stuff, I will add it to the math notebook. His daily oral work goes into the composition book and the rest is in my planner. My friend Lisa takes pictures of her daughter’s mats and other work and places those in a notebook. We have chosen to do our oral notebook work without using the blocks as a reference. So our written work looks pretty stark. How are you tracking your children’s work?