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What is a Math Journal?
Essentially, math journals are notebooks where students respond to and write about math. In the mid-90s, math teachers were just bringing this to their classrooms and adjusting to the reality of the requirement of writing in math class! Who knows if it’s still even a thing in classrooms today, but it is a great way for students to process their understanding of mathematical concepts and it’s a fun thing for kids who enjoy life beyond the numbers.
What Does the Journal Look Like?
There are different philosophies on this concept. Here are few ideas with my personal preference included:
- Binder with Labeled Sections– Just its own three ring binder with labeled dividers separating the different sorts of entries.
- 3 Prong Folder with Labeled Sections– Certainly easier to store and able to be divided into sections, this is a nice option for those who know they won’t have tons of entries.
- Spiral Notebooks– with more of a running journal style. No need for sections, but everything is in its place and it’s easy to keep track of. Worksheets can be taped in and folded.
- Math Notebook– This one is my favorite. Rather than having a separate notebook for the journaling, we put the journal entries right in the same spiral notebook as the math assignments. One great, big, happy math party in a notebook. The 11 year homeschooling veteran in me knows this is a successful approach because there’s no extra overhead.
I’m definitely a fan of minimalism when it comes to keeping track of school papers. The more it requires from any of us, the less appealing it becomes and the less it will happen.
Types of Math Journal Entries
There aren’t a lot of rules to this game, really. The idea is to get kids thinking and writing about math. Follow these ideas and add your own!
- Math Copywork– This could be math quotes or vocabulary like days of the week for younger children.
- Research– Have your kids learn about interesting math concepts (resources below), history of a math concept, or the biography of a mathematician.
- Challenges– I like to find puzzles or riddles the kids need to solve. It can be anything that stretches your students beyond the concepts they are studying at the moment. Remember, the key is in having them explain their answer.
- Responses– These are answers to open ended questions, making their own problems and solutions, and logging their math reading.
- Fun Stuff– Puzzles, games, printouts, or making their own math games.
Online Resources for Math Journaling
There are so many engaging online resources for math journaling. The internet has many websites and YouTube channels where math educators share ideas and challenges. Here are a few we have enjoyed.
- Math Journaling Pinterest Board– A collection of lessons and resources I thought would make great math journal ideas when I saw them.
- Yummy Math– Always relevant with something going on in the news or seasonally, this site provides great problems for middle schoolers and up to solve.
- Math Calendar at Partially Derivative– These are math calendars for middle and high school students.
- Math Calendars at Math Geek Mama– You have to love a mom with a blog devoted to math! You can find her March and February calendars here and follow along for more.
- Math Notebooking– from Jimmie Lanley through one of her Hub Pages. Really great list of ideas here!
- Numberphile– With a name like that you know this guy loves numbers and the videos cover lots of ground.
- Vi Hart– Love her math doodling videos! But, she also shares a wide variety of math ideas. You won’t want to miss her Pi rant!
- Computerphile– This is a great channel for all those programming loving kids out there. One popular post is all about Why Use Binary. Do your kids know the binary counting system?
You can even set up a YouTube playlist for your math loving kids! Then they can write about what they saw. Pretty simple and good fun for a math lesson.
Book Resources for Math Journaling
There are so many fun books and websites on math that I thought splitting up the categories was a better idea. I wouldn’t want you to miss any good resources! The library is full of books begging kids to enjoy math and they are perfect for inspiring math journal entries.
- Cool Math– A fun book of tricks, riddles, and history. Our kids love this book!
- Family Math– Resource of games, activities, and math discussions. There’s a lot of potential in here for you to work math with your kids.
- Family Math the Middle Years– More on the theme of family math activities only now they’ve added algebraic reasoning. Fantastic for algebra readiness.
- Games for Math– A wonderful book full of homemade games to make for kids. These could easily be used in math journaling.
- The Number Devil– A fun tale of a boy who dreams about math. He is introduced to many concepts along the way.
- Fractals, Googols, & Other Mathematical Tales– An introduction to fun math concepts like Fibonacci Numbers.
- Math on the Level– the Math Adventures book. Math on the Level is a fantastic program allowing kids to mature into concepts. The Adventure Book is packed full of ideas for applied math.
- Big Book of Math– A fun notebooking resource book with folds and ideas for math concepts.
- Big Book of Books– A general how to on notebooking folds. If you are into this sort of thing, this is an excellent book!
Example Math Journal Entries
Felicity’s Stitching– A post dating back to when Rebecca was 9 and her early sewing days. We compared the 20 stitches to an inch that Felicity Merriman was to make in colonial days to what modern sewing machines generally stitch in a standard setting. Then she tried hand sewing 20 stitches to the inch.
The Making of a Wizard & the Crafty Side of Math– This post is for creative kids to enjoy math. These make lovely math journaling ideas.
Steampunk Fashion Design– This is a project of drafting and making patterns for a steampunk doll gown to with a unit on Jules Vern.
Sewing Math: Finding the Area of an Irregular Shape– Another old post (with some formatting issues on image sizes, sorry!) which shows how Rebecca adjusted a pattern for a smaller size.