Fancy Notes = Time for Me to Process

I’m teaching new courses this year. I taught 7th & 8th grade for 3 years, and now I’m teaching Geometry and Advanced Algebra. I’ll freely admit that before the year started I thought to myself, “Crap, I have to relearn logs! I don’t remember trig! What’s a unit circle?!”

It’s not that I worried I wouldn’t get it. I have full faith in my ability to re-learn things I have forgotten. But knowing and teaching are very different things. Additionally, after all of the nuances I learned about LINES teaching 7th and 8th grade, I knew there must be a trove of things I had forgotten or never knew to begin with in these new-to-me courses. I’ve been doing okay thus far, but we just hit trig in Geometry and higher degree polynomials in Advanced Algebra. I didn’t feel prepared to teach either of them.

Enter SLOW NOTES. In other words, type in “bullet journal” on Pintrest. Then “Ooh!” and “Ahh!” over the pretty penmanship and pages. Here are some of mine.



h/t to Morgan Fierst and Sara VanDerWerf – I stole much of the info for these notes from them

Writing nicely takes a long time. I can write very quickly, but it quickly becomes a cypher that only I can read.

These pages took me a long time. I looked up pretty fonts to copy, decided which mildliner to color with, researched borders… but the super secret awesome bonus is that in creating them, I actually remembered things I had forgotten. Or I started asking questions I didn’t know the answer to. While making the page above, for instance, I realized that I likely needed to explicitly teach that polynomials have fancy names. Thus, I made this page: name-polynomials

It’s not that I didn’t know this, but I sure as heck wasn’t prepared to teach it to students without at least some preparation.

“What happens after trinomial?” That ran through my head while making this page, and guess what the first question was that my kids asked? You got it! So I was ready to answer them.

While making the page below, which you’ll notice is clearly not finished, it occurred to me, “What the heck does a sin value of 0.8 mean?”


I mean, I know the 1 and the zero, but while I can calculate it, I had no idea what the heck it means to get a cosine value of 0.14. So I did some research and found a slick totally understandable idea  that relates the values to percentages. Which led me to bringing zometools into class so we could estimate percentages and connect those to sin and cos values. I’ve got a long way to go to teach trig well, but I feel confident that I did it better for having taken the time to make these pages and actually process that I needed to help students make sense of these values. Seems obvious, I know, but I needed the reminder.

I totally mess up pages all the time. (If you missed it the first time, scroll up and see where I obviously spelled polynomial incorrectly under the giant title it took me 15 minutes to draw.) And I abandon them if they aren’t working. Some of them are very simple:


I also make dumb decisions, and don’t worry about it. See the nonsense of me trying to color code the left and right sides of the graph on the bottom here (below)? Dumb. But whatever. I made sense of it, and kids are pretty forgiving.


Because, yes, I totally use these with my students. “Ms. Perkins, I totally like taking notes way more when they’re so pretty,” No lie. That exact thing was told me by a 10th grader. And it’s nice and easy for me to just lend out my notebook if a student has been gone for a day and needs the notes.

If you don’t enjoy drawing and coloring, you’d probably hate this – don’t do it. I LIKE making these pages. I ENJOY it, and it’s helping me be more thoughtful about what I’m going to teach.

Please share any ideas and thoughts below!

Author: Ms. P

Math Teacher in Minneapolis, MN.

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