We use interactive notebooks in our math class as part of a unit on number sense. We have found creating a reference book of concepts and procedures that students can refer to when working in math helps them build confidence and develop independence.
We’re not going to lie. They are a lot of work, but the working is meaningful. We found on average our math grades improved and students were able to retain more of their learning year over year. Read more to find out how we use them in our classroom as one way to develop number sense.
Our notebooks are created using two pages for each concept. We have found that the process of creating the page for each concept deepens understanding and shows students how to do the steps by having concrete examples they can refer back to.
We’re not going to lie. Interactive math notebooks are a lot of work, but we found that overall our students understanding of math improved greatly. You can read more about some of the challenges and how to overcome them in this post: How to Change Math With Interactive Notebooks.
How the Notebook is Set Up
We start each year with representing numbers and number sense because it tends to be a unit that most students can do successfully. Representing numbers looks at the different ways we use numbers: symbols (the numbers), words (how we say them) and pictures (like Base 10 blocks).
The second part of the unit looks at comparing and ordering numbers to each other. In the higher grades, students begin rounding and working with greater numbers.
In upper elementary, we are usually past subitizing (being able to look and immediately determine a number) or using small enough numbers that ten frames and tally marks are useful tools. For that reason, we’ve left out those options in our classroom unless we specifically need them for a student.
First, we do the lesson page (on the right side). This page can take one whole math class (sometimes more depending on the concept).
On the right side, we share the lesson including important vocabulary, examples and hints or tricks for the procedures. We provide the templates for students and go through setting up the page piece by piece with students during the lesson. This lesson usually happens near the beginning of the week.
On the left page, students prove they understand the concept by verbalizing what they have learned, diagramming a procedure and then making a personal connection to what they have learned. This page is done more independently to prove a student understands a concept. Before students complete these page, they get a chance to practice the concept in class during the week.
If you are looking for the templates and step-by-step instructions to set up the notebook with your students, you can find them here.
Representing Numbers Interactive Math Notebook for Grade 3: This unit includes number sense of whole numbers and simple fractions. The unit is also available in a bundle along with the rest of the Grade 3 outcomes.
Representing Numbers Interactive Math Notebook For Grades 4/5: This unit combines the number sense outcomes for grades four and five so that you can differentiate for your students or teach math as a whole group in a combined classroom. You can teach standard form. expanded form and words. It is also available in a bundle.
Representing Numbers Interactive Math Notebook for Grades 5/6: This unit combines the number sense outcomes for grades five and six so that you can differentiate for your students or teach math as a whole group in a combined classroom. Integers are included in this set. It also comes in a bundle.
What activities do we do to practice number sense?
The goal of the practice is to get students comfortable with representing numbers in different ways: standard form, expanded form, words, Base 10, place value and anything else we can think of.
The unit comes with some games and practice pages, but sometimes students need a little more help than that.
We use a variety of number sense activities that we use to practice:
Saying Numbers I Have… Who Has…? Game: This set includes numbers with five or six digits and actually comes with three different games.
Saying Big Numbers I Have… Who Has…? Game: This set includes numbers up to the billion place value. There are three games included in the set so you can practice as much as your students need.
Representing Numbers Pennant: This free activity is available in our store and makes a good review of all the number sense concepts.
Or number sense worksheets with a twist?
Sometimes we use worksheets, but we never use them as regular worksheets. You can read more about that in our post: Math Worksheet Games Your Students Will Love.
Representing Numbers Worksheets Grade 3: This set of fifteen pages comes with a variety of different ways to practice number sense include place value charts and a colouring activity.
Comparing Numbers Worksheets Grade 3: We use this set of fifteen pages to help students understand place value further.
You can also get all of our grade three worksheets in a bundle.
Representing Numbers Worksheets Grade 4: This set of pages has students practice place value and number sense in a variety of formats.
Comparing Numbers Worksheets Grade 4: This set of fifteen pages practices greater than and less than with numbers up to one hundred thousand.
All the grade four worksheets can be found together in a bundle.
Representing Numbers Worksheets Grade 5: This set allows students to work with greater numbers.
Comparing Numbers Worksheets Grade 5: This set of fifteen worksheets allows students to practice comparing and ordering greater numbers.
Rounding Numbers Worksheets Grade 5: This set of numbers practices front end rounding and rounding to a specific place value.
All of the grade five worksheets are available in a bundle.
We love to use task cards
Our task cards come with paper versions and digital versions. The Google Slides versions are perfect for practice and the Google Forms version is great for self-checking or grading. You can read more about this in our post: The Trouble With Task Cards and How to Fix It.
Each set of our task cards come with three different decks so you can easily differentiate. That’s seventy-two questions in each set.
Representing Numbers Task Cards Grade 3: Students can practice number sense up to one thousand. Different decks allow you to easily differentiate for your students.
Ordering and Comparing Whole Numbers Task Cards for Grade 3: This deck allows students to compare numbers up to one thousand using greater than, less than or equal to. Students will order numbers from least to greatest or vice versa.
All of the grade three decks can be found in one bundle.
Representing Numbers Task Cards Grade 4/5: Place value, Base 10, expanded form, standard form and words are all included in this set for whole numbers.
Ordering and Comparing Numbers Task Cards Grade 4/5: This set allows students compare numbers with greater, less than or equal to. Some questions ask students to put numbers in order from least to greatest or vice versa.
Rounding Numbers Task Cards for Grades 4/5: These three decks practice front end rounding and rounding to specific place values with numbers of varying amounts up to one hundred thousand.
All of the grade four and five sets are combined into one bundle.
Have you tried Boom Cards? We have just started learning about them. You can read more: Explode Your Teaching With Boom Cards.
After we practice…
Once we feel confident, we return to the math journal to prove we understand by completing the left page. We have found students who consider themselves “not good at math” tend to do better with interactive notebooks because it gives them a chance to verbalize their learning.
Students begin this page by explaining what they have learned about the concept from doing all the different activities.
Students demonstrate their understanding by completing a proof. This proof is a question we give students to prove they understand. We include these in our sets.
The connection is usually the most difficult part for students at first. Think of it as a way for students to remember the concept. It is just supposed to be a personal way to remember.
At the beginning of the year, these steps take longer than they will once students understand what they should be doing on each step. That is part of the reason we start with number sense. It’s a good unit to keep simple and work through the interactive notebook pages.
Each interactive notebook unit includes templates like the ones we’ve shown, materials for setting up your interactive notebooks, practice pages, games, assessments, “I Can” statements and complete lessons that are sub-proof.
There are many different templates for interactive math journals out there and most of them are great. The difference with our journals is that they are not just chopped-up worksheets. They are pages students interact with while they are doing their classwork.
Once the pages are complete…
Once we complete a concept in our math journals, we review the whole unit with a simple open-book assessment. Sometimes we just use worksheets or task cards to do this and sometimes we use a more formal assessment like a test. This lets us know which students still have work to do.
This is when we do some more targeted work with the students that need help while other students work independently mastering concepts from the unit. We continue this until the majority of students have completed the outcomes for the unit. Then we move on to the next one.
Ninja Note: We spiral our math all year long, so each unit test includes questions from all the units we’ve already completed during the school year. This is another way to keep revisiting the math notebooks all year long.
Teaching Elementary Math?
You might find these posts helpful:
- The Truth About New Math
- Conquer Math With These Proven Multiplication Strategies
- Ways to Teach Shape and Space Concepts
What do you think?
Do you use interactive notebooks? What activities do you do to help your students develop number sense? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.