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Five Things We Learned From Interactive Notebooks

When a colleague told me we should try interactive notebooks in math, we agreed and then went on our merry ways and did math the same old way for another year, so at the end of that school year, she approached us again and DEMANDED we buy this Interactive Math Journal by Jen Runde. We took a look, bought it and then went on summer vacation. Near the end of the summer I opened it up and it CHANGED MY WORLD. I will never teach math the same way again. That being said, there are a few things I learned and will change for the upcoming year to get the most of math journals.

Interactive math notebooks are an investment, but like all good investments they take time to show a good return. Patience is the key! They take time, but they result in deeper understanding, so here are some things you need to consider before starting your interactive math notebook journey.

Page Numbers

We started out at the beginning of the year writing page numbers on the corners every page.  It was excruciating.  Some students couldn’t keep track, others missed a page and had to go back and renumber them.  Next year I will have students number the pages as we go.

Ninja Note: All our ninjas-in-training can write their numbers to 100 without missing or skipping any.  🙂


We used notebooks with a metal coil and cardboard covers. While most of them held up, the ones that fell apart had no way to be repaired. Once a page fell out the book became more of a folder. We tried out compostition notebooks, but we preferred duotangs (report covers that are 3-hole punches) with plastic covers. We will filled them with lined paper and it’s held up very well. It’s also quite easy to replace pages. If you have suggestions, let us know in the comments below.

Make copies

We started doing this near the end of the year, but wished we had started sooner. Make photocopies or take photos of the completed lesson pages so students can complete them independently if they’ve been absent. This also helps when absent minded ninjas leave the master copy elsewhere and it takes ninja super powers to relocate it.

Make modifications

We had a few students that had fine motor difficulty. One modification we made was having the curriculum expectation typed out so students could focus on the lesson. We also had “scissor buddies.” These were students who worked quickly and would cut out templates for pages on behalf of other students or for students who were absent. We also had one student who would write out their proof page on a device and then draw on any math symbols needed. This would be printed out and then pasted into the math journal. Making modifications in advance of needing them saves everyone time.

Try having a “cut and glue day” where you just cut out templates and attach them to pages. That way when it’s time to complete the lessons, you just have to write without the finding of scissors and glue and all the mess


We found our students depended on these books for everything. Students became very protective of them and no one took them home.  We made copies of pages if students needed to use them at home. They used them as a resource and many students wanted to keep them to use again next year. It made us think so clearly about the outcomes, the teaching and the assessment that we will be using interactive notebooks in other subjects in the future.

We decided to write our own Interactive Math Notebooks which also include activities, practice pages and assessments. Check out our math resources. Our math notebooks are designed to align with Alberta standards. You can find them in our store. These links take you to the bundles, but the individual interactive math notebook topics are included on each of the pages.
Interactive Math Notebook Grade 3
Interactive Math Notebook Grades 4-5
Interactive Math Notebook Grades 5-6

What other tips or tricks have you learned about interactive notebooks? Share your ideas with us in the comments below.

Love the Ninjas

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