Using Math Journals

I decided over the Christmas break to mix up our Math time a little by having Kyri use a Math Journal. I had seen them mentioned on some homeschool blogs in the past, and occasionally pins for journal pages will show up in my Pinterest feed, but I hadn’t really considered them until recently. What we are doing around here is working, so I haven’t felt the need to change things.

Honestly, the idea to introduce the Math Journal came about while shopping at Target shortly before Christmas. I happened to see a purple composition notebook in the school and office supply aisle. I decided on a whim to buy it since Kyri LOVES the color purple.

I figured she would be smitten with the purple notebook (she has also inherited my love of office supplies…) and would be more than willing to do school assignments that included this notebook.

I told her we would be using it for a Math Journal and explained briefly what a Math Journal was. I told her we would be doing a page a day, a couple days each week, and that often our Math exercise for the day would involved cutting and pasting, and oh yeah doing some Math. Have I mentioned she loves paper crafts? She thought this Math Journal idea sounded great!

So when we started back to school after the holidays, I incorporated our new Math Journal into our weekly schedule.

Review and Reinforcement

I have been actively searching Pinterest and other sites for free or inexpensive worksheets to use in our Math Journal. I have found several that reinforce what we are learning about Fact Families and equalities,  place value and expanding numbers, things like that. While these worksheets we have been using would work fine as homework sheets to be holepunched and placed in her binder, she really enjoys cutting them up and putting them into her journal.

While I usually will print worksheets to be used in the journal, I also sometimes take ideas I happen to see online and just write them out on a page. For example, I will give Kyri a number and ask her to write it down in several different forms – as a written word, as a tally, in an expanded form to show place values, drawn in pictures.

While I have pinned several resources that can be used in a math journal, I wanted to mention a few that we have really enjoyed using, and are making quite the impact.

First Grade Shenanigans We have used her math printables in our journal and Kyri has really enjoyed them. This blog offers more than just math resources though, so please check out her site.

Mrs. T’s First Grade Class This has been our resource for balancing equations and equalities. This is a great site for math worksheets!

Made for First Grade This site has both reading and math resources. Some resources mentioned are available throught the site Teachers Pay Teachers, but they do offer freebies.


Incorporating Manipulatives

I am trying to build up a collection of math manipulatives that we can use to learn different concepts, such as time, measurement, place value, and fact families.

Recently we put together a set of pipe cleaner rings, each one containing a different number of colored pony beads. We use these rings to practice Fact Families. In her notebook, she labels her activity “How Many Ways?” and then chooses a ring. She uses the beads, moving along the ring, to determine how many ways she can add parts to get the whole. She lists these part-part addition problems in her notebook. The activity is dynamic enough so that she doesn’t get frustrated as she might had I just given her a worksheet asking her to generate Fact Family equations.



I found another idea online which uses a set of dice. On her journal page, she labels three columns Roll It, Make It, Expand It. She rolls the dice and this gives her a two-digit number. She then draws this number as cubes – single cubes for Ones and stacks of ten cubes for Tens. In the Expand column, she lists how many Ones and how many Tens make up her number. She had a blast with this activity, doing several pages in one sitting.


Thinking about Math

Math Journals can be very good at getting a student to think about math, rather than spitting out answers. The Math Journal format really allows for open ended questions that let the child think about why they are getting a particular answer and how they arrived there. It is a good tool to have a child learn to explain in words what they are doing mathematically. Math discussion prompts, rather than straight-forward questions can be used here. Journal prompts could facilitate thought on a topic, such as:

What are some ways we use fractions around the house?

What is my favorite shape and why? What are some everyday objects with this shape?

These types of prompts would result in more traditional, written responses (perhaps with illustrations) that might be expected in a journal.

Other prompts could be used to facilitate open-ended thinking on a problem. For example:

There are five items (i.e. cupcakes), and there are two varieties (flavors). How many of each (flavor) are there?

This entry would have words and illustrations to show addition fact families. Kyri can show a single possibilty, or several different possibilities (showing her understanding of addition fact families).

I am really excited to be using this as part of our Math studies. I am actively searching for printouts, ideas, and writing prompts to incorporate into our journal. I am pinning my finds onto my Homeschool Math pinboard, so check it out if you are on Pinterest. If you have a Math resource or pinboard you would like to suggest, please share in a comment.

2 Comments on “Using Math Journals

  1. Wow, very inspiring post. I love the pony bead rings. My son needed to practice counting to 100 so we made strings with ten pony beads each, and then made a bundle of ten strings. Threading the strings was good fine motor practice, too.


    • thanks! Kyri really enjoys these. I think making the bundle of strings with ten beads each is a great idea – I think we will try this as well. thanks for the suggestion!


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