Anyways, I have taken a liking to using notebooks for each subjects to help my kids organize their thinking and showcase their learning. Of course they had their Reader's Notebook, Writer's Notebook, and notebooks for Science and Social Studies, but I was perplexed as to how to do it for Math. What does a Math Notebook look like? What does it contain? What it is used for? I went in search of an answer. Google helped me stumble across a fellow 4th grade teacher from sunny and warm Florida. Her name is Victoria Jasztal and she is FABULOUS! I have borrowed so many ideas from her website http://www.teachingvision.org/. Check it out to learn more about this idea and others!
In our class, our Math Notebooks contain our "Glue It and Do It" activities. The "Glue Its" are questions that require the application of math skills and can have multiple ways to solve the problem. I have found my questions from different resources like Laura Candler Math Puzzlers, old ISTEP questions, Singapore Math Challenge Books, and other math books. The notebooks also help us practice good social norms and questioning the results of others. At the beginning of each class, the paper passers pass out the small strip of paper that has the question. The students were trained on how to glue them in, write the date, and get started. When students finish, they may discuss their solution with a neighbor. During this time, I am walking around and looking to see how students are solving the problems. I may help some students get a start on their problems, help others check for accuracy or mistakes, but more importantly, I am looking for some interesting discussions or teaching points. There is a lot of easy differentiation going on because students are using what they know and feel comfortable with. I have students have experience with multiplication and division and use that and I have others that draw pictures. When thinking about possible students to have share, don't be afraid to choose someone that attempts the problem incorrectly. Sometimes, those discussions are great teaching points. If I know someone is sensitive, I try not to choose them for this unless I've talked with them and then I usually try to give it a positive spin of asking the audience for help.
When we are ready to discuss as a class, I think about what I saw and call up students to bring their notebooks up to the document presenter (if you don't know what this is, it is an overhead that is really a video camera that projects what you put under it - when it's not my day to have it, I feel like I am teaching with one arm.). During this time, the student that is presenting is referred to as Miss ________ or Mr. ________. It was something I did one day to get a laugh, but they kept it up and started referring to anyone up at the DP as Miss or Mr. They get such a kick out of the title and it gets some of my more timid students up to share, too. Hey, if that's what gets them excited, then so be it!
The "teacher" will start out by discussing what they did to solve the problem. During the discussion, other students are allowed to ask questions to clarify their understanding or share their disagreement if they might see a mistake. This is all part of your norms. If you don't teach your students how to point out mistakes or misunderstanding without shouting "That's wrong." or "You didn't do it right.", then your discussion is going to be very negative and no one is going to want to come back up. Once a question is asked by the other students, the "teacher" has the chance to re-explain their thinking or choose to sit back down to make revisions. I usually take a back seat for all of this. The "teacher" chooses people to speak and chooses to sit down. I've had to step in a few times, but usually things are resolved with just a few comments from the audience. Some discussions can become heated, but if they are that hot and bothered and willing to keep defending ideas, then they must be engaged in the learning.
We have about 2-3 people share each time. We take a look at the different methods - similarities, differences, complexity, whatever we notice. Sometimes, I may give an extension activity for later by changing the situation of the problem or asking them to dig deeper on something. Sometimes, the kids even think of something more they want to work on and throw that idea out to the class. Once again, if they thinking that hard about it, they must be pretty engaged. Yea for that!
Now while all this is doing together, not all the students get the problems right. I don't take a grade on these nor do I even collect all 25 notebooks each day and look at them. What I do is I assign each student a day and collect 5-6 notebooks for that day. I review then quickly, by looking at how they approached the problem. If they are accurate and have the problem correct, I put a smiley face at the bottom to let the students know I have reviewed it. If they are not correct, I use a sticky note to jot down a note about correcting it or with a question for them to think about. When the students get their notebooks back, they know to review it to look for comments or corrections. They can do the corrections when they finish other problems early. I collect any corrections each day. You may be thinking, "if you do it together, then wouldn't they just copy down the right answer?" Well, at least in 3rd grade, they don't!. If they had it wrong, they turn it in wrong - which is fine, they go back to correct it or work with me in a small group. Even if they do copy, you can tell easily because the page is just a mess with erasing and they have copied to the T - line for line exact location on the page. If I do see that, I'll call the students up and have them explain it to me. If they have copied, they can't do that easily. No problem - we meet together and work through it.
There are many uses for the notebooks besides just for learning math each day. The notebooks are a great way to document student learning. The students have a record of their thinking and I can use it as evidence in a parent conference to show if a student is doing well or struggling. I keep a Math Notebook that is exactly the same, but instead of me solving the problems, I may write down notes about the problem, things I saw, or if I need to change the problem for next year.
Here are some pictures from some of my students' notebooks. Note - not all of them are this neat. I do talk about neatness and how it can affect accuracy with some of them. You probably know what I'm talking about though... :-)