Using Ordinary Notebook Paper Day 2: Math

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Welcome to iHN’s Hopscotch at Blog, She Wrote! My topic for the 10 day series is Ten Ways to Use Ordinary Notebook Paper. Thank you for joining me. Please take a moment to subscribe, so you don’t miss out- you can follow, subscribe by email or RSS feed (just look to the right!) and follow Blog, She Wrote on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. I’d love it if you’d stay connected and visit again!

Today’s notebook paper topic is: Math! How do you use plain notebook paper to do math? This might seem obvious to some, but others really get anxious about how to prepare math problems for their children. As a Math on the Level (MOTL) user, I make up a lot of math sheets. Sometimes I just make up the problems based on what I know my children need practice on- MOTL style, we call them “5-a-Days”. Other times, I use other math resources to choose problems from- how do I know what my kids need to work on? That’s a question for another time, but you might like to see how we use MOTL here. The short answer is that I use the Excel spreadsheet to schedule out the review problems for my children. It is a slick form and gives me the freedom to find any number of ways to approach the review with my kids. Often I use practice sheets I make up on notebook paper. It’s fast. It’s easy. It does the job.

Now for some nuts and bolts. That’s what you’re waiting for, right? Below are some examples of my children’s math assignments. You’ll find 2nd, 5th, and 7th grades represented here. The younger the student, the more I will help them set up their problems. Some of these are Life of Fred pages. Fred expects you’ll use notebook paper and write down the problems and answer them and check them. With my second grader, I like to define the space for him. He has done these on his own, but his fine motor skills are still developing and he squishes everything together.

Making boxes is a very simple way to modify questions for a special needs or young student.    

With younger students and special needs students, defining the space for answering a problem is important. It helps to show them were to focus their answer and it is an indicator for how the answer should look– long, short, digit only, etc.When I write a question, I usually phrase them specifically to use key words and I underline them. For example, in the first problem below the student was to draw. The key word there is draw. The key word cues the student into what form the answer should take. Now, these are Life of Fred “Your Turn to Plays”. I’m not sure Dr. Schmidt knows about key words, but he knows what he wants the student to do. For my part, that’s a little something I picked up in graduate school (my MS degree is in Curriculum & Instruction- Secondary Education) and it’s one of those things that’s easy to remember and apply. I use it even if I don’t remember all the key words. Incidentally, while preparing to move, I ran across a laminated reference sheet for these words. I need to put my hands on it again now! Would you like to know what they are? I’d be happy to share in another post sometime. FYI- they follow Bloom’s Taxonomy in terms of increasing complexity. It’s a nice tool to have in your homeschool teacher toolbox.

I underline the key words that tell a student what I’m expecting in the answer. In this case, a drawing. I guess by the second one I figured he had the hang of it!
My 7th grader does pretty well now. She tends to be a tiny writer, so getting her to space her problems evenly so she doesn’t get mixed up has been a challenge. She had some silly mistakes stemming from not really lining up her numbers well. I modeled it for her in the first few problems.
The boxes help to define the answer space a little bigger than the wide rule for my second grader.

Sometimes, a math problem goes in the wrong direction. And students get frustrated. What then? My go to is the whiteboard. If a student needs a stretch, he is welcome to stand up at the large whiteboard. In our old learning space (pre summer move), we had a chalkboard that was fun to work problems on. But lapboards work too and the less permanent dry erase markers help a student to step boldly into correcting a problem. Sometimes they need to attack it more than once. Then they can put the correct problem on to their notebook paper problem set.

When I teach a new concept, I talk about it with the kids and we try out some problems. It’s easy to list out the problems in steps as I did with the exponents page. I staged the problem and I use my pen to make extra lines for the kids to see. This is a simple way to cue kids in on the steps of a problem that need to be completed. 

Just a note- I do realize many of you use curriculum that issues a workbook. We were users of Horizons for quite a while, so I’m very familiar with the math workbook. However, we moved away from the consumable math format and notebook paper is very useful for us. It’s useful for extra practice and anything math throws our way. My high schooler uses a variation on the plain notebook page. It’s probably a good idea to share that too. Stay tuned!

Pretty simple, right? Tomorrow I’ll be sharing on how to use notebook paper to do math journaling. Very popular and I will explain how we approach math journaling, how to find resources, and how to use notebook paper for this purpose. I hope you’ll join me again!


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