Archive for the ‘Interactive Notebooks’ Category

Calculator Foldables

Posted: November 22, 2016 in Interactive Notebooks
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If you are anything like me, you use the heck out of your graphing calculator. My students need all the tips and tricks they can get. The better they learn to use this great tool, the less stressful they will find the state exams. To this end, I include calculator pages in my interactive notebooks. Every time we learn a new way to use our TI-84s, we glue an image of the calculator on the page, along with step-by-step instructions. Last year at the state math conference, I won a copy of TI’s SmartView. If you don’t have this program, I highly recommend it. My favorite part of this program is creating screenshots for us to glue on the calculator pages to show exactly what we are talking about. It just doesn’t get any better than that!


When I first started using interactive notebooks, I got a lot of ideas from Sarah Carter over at Math=Love. She created a page with two TI-84 graphing calculator images, but I wanted something smaller. I decided to create a page with three images. This turned out to be the perfect size for our composition notebooks. We glue them way over on the left side, leaving us plenty of room to write the steps.


This year I started teaching 8th grade self-contained Pre-Algebra. Oh no! I couldn’t take my beloved 84s with me! The regular 8th graders are all using the TI-30 XII S. After talking to my TI-Rep (Shout out to Dana Morse for being the most awesomest TI rep ever!!), I asked Special Ed for TI-34 Multiviews. They are a step up from the 30s plus they have a lot of the same features as the TI-84s, which will make the transition a lot easier when we get to 9th grade. My favorite thing they offer is math print. This is the feature that makes a fraction look like a fraction or an exponent look like an exponent. When the 84s upgraded their programming to include this, my Regents scores jumped almost ten points across the board. Turns out my students were really struggling with how to input things like fractions using parentheses. Once the math on the calculator looked like the math on their paper, there was no stopping them! My next goal is to upgrade my high schoolers to the Nspires. I have my fingers crossed for next year. Wish me luck! Or rather calculators. Wish me calculators!!

So now that I have shiny new yellow TI-34’s, I needed to find a foldable for them. I sent out a tweet to #MTBoS asking if anyone had already created one, but no one had. So I created my own. The kids love them, and once we make a page, I just refer them back to their notebooks when they tell me they don’t remember what to do in the calculator. Easy peasy!! I don’t have SmartView for the MultiViews yet, but it’s on my list.


Not being one to leave something unfinished, I created two more calculator pages for an Interactive Notebook session I taught at the state math conference earlier this month in Rye, NY. It was a great time, and I got to meet lots of wonderful like-minded math people. I can’t wait to present again at the regional conference in March. Maybe I’ll get to see YOU there!

Want copies of my calculator pages? You can find them here:

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Trigonometry is one of my favorite units to teach. It is super visual which is a huge plus for my students. All the problems in this unit are easily tied to real life. And when I say real life, I mean the type of real life that all of my kids can relate to and understand. My students excel at this unit. So of course when NY went common core, trigonometry was taken out of the Algebra 1 curriculum. Losing an entire unit that that gave us a solid chance of success was a devastating blow. To make it even worse, my favorite foldable is in this unit. Double whammy!

To make myself feel a little better for not getting to make it last year, I thought I would share it with you. I was hoping that maybe time had dimmed my fondness for this particular manipulative, but you know what? It hasn’t. This is still the coolest foldable I have ever found.

My students have trouble remembering the definitions of opposite and adjacent as they apply to right triangles. For some reason, labeling the triangle is the most difficult aspect of this unit for them. If they can get the sides labeled correctly according to the placement of the angle, odds are they will successfully solve the problem. Enter Mrs. Atwood. I found this foldable on her blog, Mrs. Atwood’s Math Class. While she doesn’t say a lot about it, (and really, she doesn’t need to, it speaks for itself!) she does include a template so non-creative people like me can make something wonderful! Check it out!





So cool, right?! If you want to make your own, (and I’m pretty sure you will!), you’ll need the template, an old transparency sheet that most schools have just gathering dust somewhere, some tape and thin permanent markers. Find her template here (each template makes two of these).

Print the template and cut out the squares on the dotted lines. Cut small squares of transparency to fit over the inside of each square. If you look carefully at the second picture, you can see how I taped the transparency to the inside of each square. Fold one side in on the dotted line. Use the permanent marker to label the angle and then label the sides with respect to that angle. Now fold in the other side, label the other angle and then label those corresponding sides. Voila! Your own super cool trig foldable. Let me know if you love it as much as I do!

I keep looking at it and trying to come up with something else besides trig that I could use it for, but I’m drawing a blank. Do you have any ideas? Please share them if you’ve got them. I would love an excuse to put this back in our notebooks!



I spent the last ten years using the school-provided planner and grade book. You know the one I’m talking about. Ugly brownish-red cover, boring green grade sheets and please tell me who can plan anything in those tiny boxes? The colors alone are enough to get a girl down. I teach algebra. To special education students. I need some color and pretty things on my desk to get me through when the going gets rough!

Last year I ditched the school stuff. I found Teachers Pay Teachers several years ago but never thought to pretty up my planner. A few misses later, I found exactly what I was looking for.

April, of A Modern Teacher, creates and sells planners that are designed to fill any need a teacher could possibly have. Seriously, this woman has thought of everything. I counted 26 different patterns, each with over 600 pages that can be downloaded as PDFs or opened in PowerPoint and edited.

After much agonizing, I chose the Purple Paisley, because, well, Purple. And Paisley. Enough said. I chose several sections to include in my planner and then took at a look at her lesson planning pages. Be still my heart! Any combination I could dream up is there. Want the subjects on the top and the days on the side? You got it. More of a days on the top, subjects on the side kind of person? She’s got that too. Five classes? Fine. Eight? You bet, and everything in between. Here’s a peek at mine from last year. My school has a punch for the planners they hand out so it was a simple matter to print out what I wanted and hole punch it to fit in the planner.

I love the way this turned out. Everything I needed was in one place, keeping me organized  and stylish. Go me! This year, I decided to ditch the ugly cover. Sure some teachers put stickers on it, or spell their name out in pretty puffy letters, but they fall off, or get caught on things and tear off. Too fussy for this girl. The Arc Notebook System by Staples caught my eye several months ago. It is a completely customizable system that uses discs to hold specially punched paper. The lines are clean, I can choose a pretty cover, and make it as big (or as small) as I want. But would it work? It would be an investment as I would need to buy the special whole punch to use it. Plus all the parts. The whole thing got pushed to the back of my mind until Sarah Carter blogged about it here and here. She has never steered me wrong before so I wandered over to Staples to look a little more closely. When I realized that my 30% off Staples Products coupon would work on the Arc system, I caved and bought everything I needed, including the hole punch. A Math=Love recommendation and a coupon? Well, that’s a done deal as far as I am concerned! I started printing out my planner and setting it up, but not before agonizing again. Did I want to keep the purple paisley? Or choose a different design? I get overwhelmed easily when presented with too many choices but I managed to narrow it down to just three. In the end, I decided the paisley was still my favorite so I kept it. Did I mention April includes free updates? There is a brand new calendar for the upcoming school year all fresh and ready to go. It really doesn’t get any better than this! She even gives video demos.


I spent the next week or so happily printing and organizing my new planner. I chose a clear Arc notebook cover to show off the pretty planner cover, and clear tabbed dividers to separate the sections. I bought regular 3-hole punched clear dividers and prepunched them with the Arc punch. Worked like a charm! I am in love, love, love with my new planner. Take a look and tell me if you agree!


These pages are all editable. We run on ten week quarters so I increased the number of columns so that I can fit five weeks on each page. Then I did the same thing for the Gradebook pages.

Prefer the days at the top? Need more subject areas? She has every arrangement you can think of included.

I found these great parent contact pages from Teaching with a Touch of Twang. Even better, they are a free download. Find them here. Interested in the Completed Call Logs sheet? That one’s mine and you can download it here. I assigned each class its own section and color to keep me organized. Word makes it easy to change the color of the table.

As a special education teacher, I touch base with my students regularly. It’s helpful to be able to glance at a page and see when they have study hall or lunch. I created this page too. You can get it here.

My sped department tracks students by class to help us organize them when midterm and finals roll around. Each teacher is asked to put all their IEP and 504 students on this form and send us a copy to file. Our old form was a mess, so two years ago I created a cleaner version with check boxes. It’s easy to fill out, and a great tool for teachers to ensure that students are getting their accommodations and modifications. You can download your own copy here. I also created a page to list all the students I have to test during the school year. If you are interested, it’s here.

Amazing, right?! Want to make your own planner as beautiful as mine? You can find her store here. The planners are all here. The Purple Paisley I fell in love with is here. Make sure you stop by her blog and show her some love.





The hardest part of deciding what to put in my INBs involves the first few pages. If I forget something, or find something new afterwards, I won’t have any extra blank pages to use. Leave extra pages and I might run out during the year. Not to mention blank pages drive me crazy! For the last two years, the first four pages in my notebooks have been the same for all my classes. I haven’t thought of anything else that I want to add to this section, so I plan to keep it the same again this year. Let’s take a look.

I teach in New York state. That means my students must pass the Common Core Regents Exam in order to graduate. The state includes a references table of conversions and formulas for students to refer to while taking the test. This is good. Each exam used to have its own reference sheet. Not any more. The reference table was changed when we switched to Common Core to include conversions and formulas for every level of high school math, all together. This is not good. My students have a hard time figuring out what to use from a sheet with lots of information, much of which they don’t need and have never seen before. I knew they would need lots of practice using this document. In the past I have printed out multiple copies, laminated them and kept them in the class crate for students to use. When I switched to INBs, I decided to put a copy right in the notebook. I made a copy at 85% (Remember the magic number? I use composition notebooks so if I reduce any copies to 85%, they will fit these notebooks perfectly.), then made multiple copies on brightly colored paper. We glued them right on the inside front cover so they were easy to find, and we used them. Constantly. By the time they sit the exam at the end of 10th grade, they are so comfortable with the reference sheet that they can use it without thinking too much about it. Nailed it! Want your own copy? Find it here.

I decided to include my syllabus on the first page. After we go over it in class, students and parents must sign it. This gives them all the information they need, right in their notebooks. See my original post for more information. Not sure why they look like different colors. It is the same sheet, copied as a two-sided document.



The next two pages include an insert describing what an interactive notebook is, and the rubric that I use to grade them. I found these and saved them two years ago, never dreaming I would start blogging. I have not been able to find the sites where I found them. If they are yours, or you recognize them, please, please, please let me know so I can give proper credit and link to the site! The notebook description is included to help my students share the background behind the notebooks with their families. The rubric shows them exactly what I am looking for when I grade them. I try to do notebook checks at the end of every unit.

Math Notebook Description p.2

Math INB Rubric p.3

What I don’t include in the front of our notebooks? A table of contents. I tried this the first year and my students couldn’t find ANYTHING! Many have difficulty reading, so several pages of entries quickly becomes overwhelming. We create a separate table of contents for each unit. You can read about it in this earlier post.

That takes care of the first few pages of our notebooks. Now for the back.

My students love to play games. If you haven’t tried Plickers yet, you are missing out! I found this game before my school went 1:1. Most of my students do not have internet access outside of school. Few of them have working cell phones, let alone smart phones. Activities that require them to use technology used to be a constant issue in my room. They love to scan QR codes for scavenger hunts and task cards, and while they are very respectful and careful when they use my iPhone, one phone isn’t enough to keep things moving. With classes only forty minutes long, that is a huge problem. Enter Plickers. The only technology needed is one smart phone. I create multiple choice or true/false questions on the Plickers site and then run the game through an app on my iPhone. Each student is assigned a numbered Plicker card. I printed the cards and each student glued their card onto the inside back cover of their notebook. Now we don’t lose any time while they search for their cards. So handy!


The last of our startup foldables also goes on the inside of the back cover. For varied reasons, my students have poor basic math skills. I have a number line on the classroom wall, but that doesn’t help them when they are at home. For reference, we glue a number line inside the back cover of our notebooks. Sarah Carter of Math = Love created both a vertical and a horizontal number line foldable. I used the vertical number line two years ago, and my students had a hard time with the new orientation. She recently added the horizontal one and that works much better for us. As you can see, we glue it at the top of the inside back cover. When we need it, it folds out and can be seen and used from any page. Brilliant! See more information here.




So there you have it. A quick, easy startup for any math notebook. This year I will be adding Math 8 to my schedule and plan to use these pages for those notebooks too, changing the Algebra Reference Sheet to the Math 8 Reference Sheet. You can find a copy here. Need a Reference Sheet for a different grade? Find them here.

What are your go to startup pages? I would love to see them so please share!












To be or not to be-that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And, by opposing, end them.

-Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

When Hamlet uttered those words, he could have been referring to homework. Should it be or not be? Is it better to suffer through it or fight against it? Do students get anything out of it? Do teachers?



Studies show that homework has little impact on academic achievement, yet many teachers still assign it. Are we assigning it because we believe it is necessary, or because it’s always been done that way?

I sat down and brainstormed reasons why I might assign homework and reasons why I might choose not to. This is what I came up with.

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 4.58.34 PM

Personally? I give homework. Not a lot. Often just a few problems that I want students to try without me. I don’t grade it on correctness but on effort. And we go always go over it together. My student all have IEPs and most test very poorly, especially in math. We talk a lot about responsibility, time management, and knowing our strengths and weaknesses. About how if you know you test poorly, you must have some type of plan to prevent yourself from failing a class. Often that means making sure every grade you can control is as high as possible, to counterbalance those poor test grades.

What is your homework policy?  What would you add to my list?






Interactive notebooks have saved my sanity! I need to send heartfelt thanks to Sarah Carter of Math=Love. Hers was the first blog I found on interactive notebooks and even better, it was about algebra! For the last two years, my students and I have been cutting, folding, writing, gluing and learning as we build our notebooks. It is music to my ears when a student asks me a question and then answers themselves immediately with, “I know, I know. Did you look in your notebook?” I find it less musical when they ask me what page to look on. Um…how about checking the table of contents? Lindsay Perro’s are my go to for this. I use her editable side tab dividers and copy them on brightly colored card stock. Perfect!

So what else is in our notebooks? Here are some of our favorites.

My syllabus comes from Sarah, over at Everybody’s a Genius. I love that it’s one page and chunked into small bites of information. My special education students have no trouble understanding it. It’s editable, and as you can see, I’ve tweaked it a bit. I created a QR code (under the pink square). Create your own free code here! The syllabus goes home the first day of school, and when it comes back with signatures we glue it in our notebooks!

Looking for a great idea for the Real Number System? My favorite is from Chris at A Sea of Math. She found it here and then added her own spin to it. This is one foldable that we use regularly!

If you can time your lesson on And/Or Inequalities to coincide with Halloween, this foldable might fit the bill. The bat template was created by Jennifer Smith of Smith Curriculum and Consulting and can be purchased from her store on Teachers Pay Teachers. One of her readers, Jessica Cleeton, added the Inequality information (the original template is blank). This foldable is my students’ absolute favorite so far. Thanks go out to Jennifer too, for not only her great resources but her willingness to answer my questions. She has gone above and beyond to help me. Check out her blog 4mula Fun, for lots of great ideas!

Do your students struggle with finding domain and range as much as mine do? I’ve tried boxing in the graph and highlighting around it, but this little foldable has helped the most. The biggest problem I see is that when they are looking for the domain, they want to highlight around the x-axis instead of crossing it, so they end up getting domain and range confused. T. Haley, at Journal Wizard, apparently had the same problem. While the concept is similar to highlighting, the words to keep us on the right track are brilliant!

I added the infinities on the inside for a little extra help. The domain and range cards were created in Desmos and then I took screenshots of each graph. You can download them here. Remember to add arrows as you like to each graph. The cute little envelope was originally created by Kathryn of i is a number. Sarah Hagan of Math=Love resized it to fit the cards. Her envelope can be found here (scroll about halfway down the page).

Ah, functions… Anyone else’s students try to include the f(x) when they simplify, thereby turning it into some demented-looking equation? This foldable won’t help with that, (will anything?? Seriously. Let me know!), but it will help students understand where to find the x-value. Kathryn Freed, of Restructuring Algebra,  tweeted about her creation and one of her students told her to blog about it. So she did. Here.

I love Scaffolded Math and Science’s stuff. All of it. Choosing one to put on this page is a challenge. We both teach algebra to special education students, so her materials fit my classroom like they were made for it. Her Difference of Squares foldable (she calls them flippables) from Factoring Flippables was a huge hit. Everything we needed to successfully factor the difference of two perfect squares was right at our fingertips. She has many more great materials on her website and in her store. Check her out!

Need a foldable for the coordinate plane? I use Jennifer Smith of Smith Curriculum & Consulting’s Ordered Pairs and Graphing Flippable . It’s easy to read and understand and has everything on it that I need.

My last two must-haves are both from Sarah Carter of Math=Love. The first is a graphic of a TI-84 graphing calculator. I am firmly in the camp that teaches calculator skills to our students. Each skill gets its own page, complete with a calculator and step-by-step directions. You can find the link to download one here (two on a page) or here (three on a page, link is in the last comment). Need an Inspire? Check out the fourth comment.

The small screenshots are my own, created courtesy of the TI-Smartview program I won at the state math conference last fall. If you don’t have this program, I highly recommend it. Shout out to my TI rep Dana Morse. Couldn’t ask for a better one. He’s amazing.

My students figure out slope by using a number line. The old Integrated Algebra Regents exam had the slope formula included on the reference page. The new Common Core exam does not. Knowing my students are not going to remember a formula like this, I stopped using it. They are very good at figuring out how far apart two numbers are using a number line. Without one? Not so much. Enter Sarah Carter’s number line foldable. I tried the vertical version two years ago, and the orientation completely confused my students. This year she added a horizontal version. Thanks, Sarah! Find her post and the link to both versions here.

So there you have it. McLeod’s Crowd’s favorite foldables. What are your go to foldables?




So you’ve decided to try interactive notebooks with your students. Great! But now what? Here are some thoughts to get you started…


Must Have

  • Notebooks – I prefer composition books because the pages don’t fall out.
  • Colored paper – the brighter, the better
  • Glue – your choice here, my preference is glue sticks. They cause fewer headaches.
  • Tape – for those students who will refuse to use glue
  • Scissors – everyone needs a pair
  • Markers/Colored Pencils/ Highlighters


  • Big rubber band – we put them through a hole punched in the back of our notebooks and use them to keep them closed and secure.
  • Ribbon – stapled to back of notebook and used as a bookmark
  • Document Camera/Projector – I build mine with the class under the document camera so everyone can see what they need to do.
  • Flair Pens – these colored felt tip pens are my favorite
  • Tabs – some way to mark the start of a new unit so it is easily found


  • Organize your supplies. I have a different plastic container for everything and they sit on the filing cabinets in the back of the room.
  • Decide how you want to set up your notebooks. Often the right side is for foldables and notes, and the left side is for students to process their learning, but do whatever works best for you and your students.
  • Where do get your foldables? If you are uber-creative, you can make your own. I’m not so I do a lot of searching online. Just google whatever topic you need and add the word foldable at the end. If you click on the images link on Google, you can scroll through the pictures pretty quickly. I also use the same type of search in Pinterest.
  • Make students write. While the foldables that are already filled out are easier, I find students retain the information much better when they have to write the words.
  • Once you choose a foldable, build it before you teach it! My most spectacular failures have been when I found something cool right before class and tried to run with it.
  • Build your own notebook with your students. I have created mine under the document camera so everyone can see what I am doing, but if my class is really small, I have also pushed the desks together and sat in a group to build them. Not only will you have a notebook to refer to next year, but you become part of the class when you join your students. The best conversations happen when we are all at the same level.
  • Create a table of contents for each unit and mark that page with a tab so it is easy to find. My students found a full table of contents at the beginning of each notebook too overwhelming.
  • Make extra copies!! Someone will cut something wrong, despite your repeated explanations. My favorite?  Don’t cut the tabs off your table of contents foldable. Someone does, every single time.
  • Make your copies the right size. The magic number for composition notebooks is 85%. Reduce a full-size foldable to 85% and it will fit perfectly.
  • Take a couple of minutes at the end of the day and jot down notes on a Post-It and put it right in your notebook to refer to next year. Did something work really well? Or not at all? An idea to make it even better? Write it down. Trust me; you won’t remember next year until you are halfway through the lesson.
  • Make your students use their notebooks. Every time a student asks me a question about something they have a foldable for, I tell them to look in their notebook.
  • Don’t assume students will understand how to use their notebooks. Model it! I refer to mine during every class and talk my way through finding the resource I need. Then model actually using the foldable.
  • Check their notebooks! Create a quick rubric or find one online. USE IT!! I admit, I get lazy and don’t check them often enough. If I let them use their notebooks on a test, I end up spending hours helping kids rebuild their entire notebooks the week before. My goal is to check them at the end of each unit.
  • Plan for absent students. I have a crate with folders for each day of the month. Extra copies are filed in the folder on the date they were handed out. Students must come in on their own time and use my notebook to complete the foldable they missed. I also take pictures of every page and upload them to our Google Classroom page. I never let my notebook leave my classroom!
  • Save your scrap paper. I toss mine in a basket, and we use the pieces if we want to add emphasis to something or if I have them create their own foldable.