Questions about Exercise Books – #mathscpdchat

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To me, exercise books are a means to an end – they are merely a place for students to jot down workings in order to solve problems. It is the act of practising that’s important, not the written record of that practice. I’d happily have my students do all their work on scraps of paper that they throw away at the end of the lesson.

“Oh but what about their notes? They’ll need those for revision”. I specifically tell my students to revise for exams by doing practice questions (past exam papers, workbooks etc). I tell them to watch a video or ask me for help with anything they get stuck on. I never tell them to ‘read their exercise book’ for revision. So what value is there in spending time and effort focusing on the organisation and presentation of classwork, if that classwork will never be referred to again?

I’m deliberately playing devil’s advocate here, but I do think this is worth discussing. How important are exercise books in the teaching of mathematics?

Please join #mathscpdchat at 7pm on Tuesday 15th March to share your opinions.

I’m sure many of you will have a view on the importance of well presented exercise books. I expect that people will talk about students taking pride in their work and the advantages of a disciplined approach to setting out workings.

I’m sure people will also have views on when and where to give feedback. I only give feedback on homeworks and assessments – my homeworks are always on worksheets, meaning I never write directly in my students’ exercise books. In fact I rarely look at them. Does it matter? Some #mathscpdchat participants may have views on the degree of independence we should give students – how much should we monitor their classwork books? Do you monitor the classwork of sixth form students?

The pictures below show a well presented exercise book and a poorly presented exercise book. These are from two very different types of student – I wonder what you can infer about each student.

If we care about presentation, how can we train our students to present their work well? At the start of each school year I set out my book presentation expectations with each class. What do you do?

How do you deal with worksheets? I use a lot of worksheets (mostly Don Steward) and I’m terrible at remembering to tell my students to stick their sheets in. Their books are bursting with loose sheets. Perhaps ring binders would be better.

On Twitter I’ve seen a range of ideas for exercise books including collapsible number lines, treasury tags and raffle tickets. Do you do anything that’s ‘a bit different’? Please share!

There are many interesting discussion points here. Please join #mathscpdchat at 7pm on Tuesday 15th March to share your opinions. I’d love it if you could share pictures of your students’ exercise books too!

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