The Maths Diary

Every student in my Yr11 class is making a Maths Diary. In it they will summarise everything they need to know about Mathematics, to help them become better Mathematicians, and to strive to get an excellent grade in their summer exams.

Crudely – it worked for me, so hopefully it will work for them (there are obvious dangers in this approach).

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Notes on 3-dimensional manifolds from my masters. Added notes in margins, colour, quick reminders. Clear but not precious.
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On the inside of each book…

Why summarising?

The act of condensing notes requires the mathematician to identify the essential from ther superfluous.

Why a book?

Cue cards and folders tend to lead to disorganised piles of notes. A book is a self-contained treasure-trove of information.

Some observations

List of every algebraic skill the students need to be able to do. Student plans which topics to focus on and which to ignore, before diving in. Topic list is not high quality (stole from the web)
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Time devoted in lessons and homework to giving each other feedback
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Excellent awareness of what makes a question difficult.
The Drafting Process
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Beautiful presentation, but is there much here beyond facts? Is that a problem?
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Great tips, but hard to scan. Does that matter?

The pros

  • For students who enjoy neat presentation of work, this is a comforting dream.
  • Every mini-test or lesson that students do now ends with a few minutes transferring key ideas in quick note-form back into the diary (key notes jotted in back of book for reference). This is the central store of all knowledge.

The cons

  • What about the student who finds it hard to formally explain their understanding and might benefit more from reams of practice? Is the art of summarising important enough to warrant a short-term loss in their performance?
  • What if the book is lost? (We have already mourned the loss of one diary)
  • It takes a lot of lesson time to maintain and keep momentum
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