How to Save Time with Interactive Notebooks in Algebra 1

“I’m wanting to do interactive notebooks, but how do you make it not take so long?”

This is, by far, the #1 question I get from other math teachers.

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How to use Interactive Notebooks as Study Tools in Algebra 1

Interactive notebooks are study tools at their core. There are many ways to encourage students to develop this relationship with their notebook. Here are a few:

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How to Grade Interactive Notebooks in Algebra 1

“How do you grade interactive notebooks” is a common question I get.

And, to be honest, I don’t.

Not always anyways!

To Grade or Not to Grade?

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Routines for Using Interactive Notebooks in Algebra 1

One of the most important things to ensuring that your experience with interactive notebooks runs smoothly and doesn’t waste class time is through your use of routines and the organization of your classroom. In another post I talk about supplies you’ll need and how I organize them, and in this post I’ll walk you through how to set yourself up for success with routines that utilize that organization. 

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Interactive Notebook Supplies & Organization in Algebra 1

If you’re wanting to do interactive notebooks, you’re going to want to make sure you have several supplies ready and organized. 

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Why use interactive notebooks in Algebra 1?

So now that you know what an interactive notebook is and what goes in them, your next question is probably:

Are Algebra 1 students too old to use interactive notebooks?


If you teach Algebra 1, odds are you have 8th graders or freshmen. In either case these are students in a major transition period. Either at the very end of middle school or the very beginning of high school. 

Typically, these students still majorly struggle with organization and need to be explicitly taught several soft skills like how to take good notes, how to use notes to refer back to if they get stuck, how to study, how to stay organized, and so on. 

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What is an interactive notebook & What goes in it?

In this blog post, we are going to go over all of the basics of interactive notebooks. To get us started, let’s go to the very beginning…

What is an interactive notebook?

An interactive notebook is just a composition or spiral notebook that students develop over the course of a class where students can organize their notes and their learning to be used as a study tool. 

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How I teach Properties of Real Numbers

This is part of my Unit 1 Interactive Notebook for Algebra 1. You can view the rest of it here.

1.2 – Properties of Real Numbers

Properties of real numbers. What a snooze fest, am I right? WRONG!

This set of notes turns that notion upside down and gets students involved in creating their own examples to demonstrate each property to make a lively and memorable lesson.

You might wonder, “why would I want to teach properties of real numbers?” It’s a simple way to help students start thinking algebraically and flexibly, especially after having a long summer off from math. These properties demonstrate nice rules for manipulating and moving numbers and variables around in expressions and will help them understand why certain moves are “legal” when we start solving equations. Helping students think flexibly and understand the structure of an expression is a huge step in their journey toward mathematical fluency.

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How I teach The Real Number System, Classifying Real Numbers, and Closure

This is part of my Unit 1 Interactive Notebook for Algebra 1. You can view the rest of it here.

1.1 – The Real Number System, Classifying Real Numbers & Closure

There’s nothing trickier than picking the very first topic to cover in all of Algebra 1. So many options, so what goes first?

To start the very first unit of Algebra 1 off, I begin by talking about the real number system and how we classify numbers.

Why oh why, is this where I start, you might ask?

Instilling this vocabulary is very important in helping students be able to hold fluent conversations about math. I can’t tell you how many students I’ve had in Algebra 2 (or Pre-Calc!) over the years that have asked “what’s an integer?” and they are unable to complete a problem that they otherwise would know how to do solely because they lack the basic vocabulary and don’t understand what the question is asking.

This is silly, and I want to prevent these things from happening as much as possible. Math really is its own language, and helping students learn it will allow them to be more confident and much more successful in the long run.

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Algebra 1 Unit 1 Interactive Notebook Pages – The Foundations of Algebra

Starting the year off right is SO important for any class, but especially in Algebra 1, in particular. Everything that is done in the first unit lays the foundation for everything to come throughout the rest of the year, so there is is a lot riding on starting the year strong.

Here’s what to include in your first unit of Algebra 1 to start the year off right…

Students NEED to have a strong foundation, or else they’ll be fighting an uphill battle all year, which is no good. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what topics are most important for students to know (from vocabulary to skills), so that each following unit has a strong foundation. Here are all of the notes I used with my students during the 1st unit of Algebra 1.

If you want to look inside any of the pages included in this unit, you can take a look at these topic-specific posts for a more detailed look!

  • 1.0 – Notebook Setup
  • 1.1 – The Real Number System, Classifying Real Numbers, & Closure
  • 1.2 – Properties of Real Numbers
  • 1.3 – Order of Operations
  • 1.4 – Evaluating Algebraic Expressions
  • 1.5 – Combining Like Terms
  • 1.6 – The Distributive Property
  • 1.7 – Translating Algebraic Expressions, Equations & Inequalities
  • 1.8 – Solving 1-Step & 2-Step Equations
  • 1.9 – Solving 2-Step Inequalities
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