Made for Math Monday – Math Reference Books

I teach middle school, so by the end of the trimester, student’s spiral bound math notebooks are pretty beaten up at best, and downright nasty at worse.  So, at the beginning of each trimester I have students start a brand new notebook for my class.  At the end of the year they each have 3 beaten up, spiral math notebooks.

I did not want my student to just take these notebooks home – as I knew they would probably end up thrown out!  So, I decided to have them use their three notebooks to make make ONE Math Reference Books.

They went through each of their three notebooks and tore out what they felt was the most important pages (keeping the pages in date order).  Then, they compiled these pages to make on concise Math Reference Book.  They used the back cover of two of their old notebooks to make a new front and back cover for the new reference book.  Then, they tied them all together with yarn and decorated the cover.

I had the students make a pocket for the inside of the notebooks as well so they could keep any chapter or study guides we had made.  It was very interesting to see what pages most students decided to keep.  Almost all students selected the pages with foldables on them.  One student ONLY kept pages that were foldables!


I kept their Math Reference Books in my room and will give them back next year to use in class when they have questions or get stuck on review problems.  I will also let struggling students take theirs home when they need more work or remediation.

I am hopeful that this will be a resource that will help jog their memory when they forget a concept or procedure (since it contains notes that they took in their own handwriting).  I would also like for them to see the value of taking good notes through these reference books.  I also like the fact that all of their hard work from the year before is not thrown away and forgotten, but used as we go forward and built upon previous concepts.

13 thoughts on “Made for Math Monday – Math Reference Books

    • This problem has been greatly diminished since they only have to keep up with the notebook for one trimester (and then I take it up and keep it until the end of the year). Also, even if they lose ONE notebook one trimester, it is unlikely they will lose all three since they start a new notebook each trimester.

      Yes, I did have a couple of students who lost their notebook mid (or even towards the end) of the trimester. When this happens, they buy a new notebook and start again. So, I did not have any student that had lost an entire trimester. The students who lost part of their notes will have less to refer to than the other students. Their Reference Books will be a bit thinner. Since we use the reference notebooks in class, I have those students look off of another student’s reference book in this case.

  1. I LOVE the thought of having kids keep the pages that they think are important – I’ll bet it was really insightful to see what they thought was of the most value. I also like breaking the notebooks up into trimesters – great post!

    • Thanks! I am actually going to do semesters this time. I don’t like taking an entire class period 3x a year to set up the notebook and there was a lot of paper we didn’t use in the back of each notebook – especially 3rd trimester. We pulled it all out and piled it up for use this year, but what a mess! lol!

  2. I’ve used 3-ring binders for years – but maybe the end of each quarter or every 6 weeks after our cumulative tests… allowing students to purge unnecessary pages… GREAT idea!

    • Yes. I have the same students in six and seventh grade. I will give the 8th graders their books back at the beginning of the year to use in Algebra 1. Hopefully they will use it! 🙂

  3. Pingback: My Favorite Mega White Boards | I Speak Math

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