Color-Coded Learning: Numbers Notebook


Numbers Notebook: A Record of Learning

I began implementing a math journal in 2013.  It was not something I set out to do at the beginning of the school year, but rather something I began due to the gentle nudge mandated order that fell down over K-12 math teachers as all of the standards were changing.  I was NOT a fan of the idea, teaching first grade at the time and having visions of sideways and backwards numbers all over page after page of composition books did not feel like the best use of our time or resources.  Today I’m thrilled to share that the math journal component of our math block became a class favorite almost overnight and has only grown in value for both students and myself. I am also sharing a big numbers notebook freebie in this post so you can see if it’s something you can incorporate into your math block!

Exhibit A: Circa 2013 in love with math journals

There are a few reasons that math journals appealed so much to my students and I want to share those with you!

Thank you to ASTROBRIGHTS® Papers for sponsoring today’s post. I received payment from Astrobrights in exchange for writing this post. All opinions are my own and I only support brands and products that I use and absolutely love. This post also contains affiliate links. I earn a small commission each time someone makes a purchase through one of my links, which helps to support the blog. 

Colored Paper

A little bit of novelty also goes a long way.  The first time I introduced our math journal, I also shared the first activity printed on  Outrageous Orchid™.   I knew that I needed student buy in.   I was asking students to trade out a fun math center game with a paper based written task so the deck was stacked against me.  Cheers erupted when students saw the paper and the journal.  I tried to hide the look of shock on my face, as I shared how to cut on dotted lines and fold on solid lines.  Students were open and excited to take on a new rotation activity and I was going to pretend that this math journal idea was totally my idea from the beginning.  I mean…ahem…it was.

Exhibit B: Outrageous Orchid™ folding paper tally mark activity


Now fast forward a year, and our math journals were a HOT MESS of learning!  A rainbow of colored paper stuck out from the sides begging students to open and remember all the great lessons and activities that had happened.  Students always shared their journals with visitors to our classroom.  I loved that students were so proud of their work, but I wanted to “fix them” to be a bit more clean and organized.

Exhibit C: I can’t believe I am showing you these because they are such a mess.  It was time to put some expectations in place!

Record of Learning

Once I realized what a treasure the math journals became through the school year, I wished desperately that I had organized them in a way that made more sense!  With all of the standards focusing we do in our daily life, it became a priority to try to provide the standards and tabs for organizing.  To take it even further, I decided to use color to further provide that record of learning.  Each math strand can be color-coded.  I use both sides of the composition book pages.  So I counted out every 12 pages and put a color tab in the composition book.  I suggest stapling tabs in for durability.  I tried glue sticks.  That lasted a minute and a half.  I think tape would also be great, but I am faster with a stapler so that’s my preference!

I like to use Astrobrights Variety Packs to get the spectrum! This set has 10 colors, and there are 9 math strands.  This will cover each strand plus give you one remaining color.  I like using the colors of the rainbow, but there’s so many amazing colors, it can be done anyway that works for you!

  • Color(s): Solar Yellow ™, Fireball Fuchsia™ , Celestial Blue™, Terra Green™, Planetary Purple™ , Pulsar Pink™ , Lunar Blue™ , Orbit Orange™ , Gamma Green™ , Re-Entry Red™ 

Now, we can do our math journal activities and students know that activities of certain colors need to go with the tab of the same color. Not everything is printed on color, but when possible it’s a great motivator and organizer.

Many times, we print on white copy paper, but you can use colored pencils, pens, markers, or crayons to also tie in the color.

Folds and Cuts

There’s a bit of a training process for cuts and folds with primary students, but I began making a week of journal example pages ahead of time because it was really helpful to put the journal under the document camera to show formatting and folds.  This solved all sorts of issues.  For sweeties that truly struggle with spatial issues, I just pre-cut a few and had them available.  Having flaps in math journals is another draw to students.  They can’t get enough of the answer under the flap.  It’s so mysterious y’all.

color-coded sorts = winning at teacher life


Once journals are up and running, it is important to address expectations through feedback.  I choose to check journals weekly on Thursdays.  Then on Friday it’s important to communicate the positive feedback so everyone knows what to strive for!  Show off and share for a few seconds.


Peek at Some of the Pages

Here’s some more color-coded numbers notebook pages.  There’s a range here of kindergarten through second grade.






If your heart is skipping a beat at the thought of color-coding your learning, you can get the tabs in a free download!  Plus I am sharing tons of free numbers notebook activities to try too in the same download!

Click the image below to download to get started with color-coding your learning too

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  1. Hi, these are great! I am teaching 4th grade for the first time this year and would love to incorporate journals. Do you have one for 4th grade?
    Thank you,

    1. Yes we have math journals for fourth grade. They are not called numbers notebooks. If you search math journals Tunstall (my last name) you can find them.