Math Mondays: 3 Reasons to use Color-Coded Notes in Secondary

As with most of my best teaching tools, color-coded graphic organizers are a result of listening to my students. In math there are often many steps.  As I don't lecture, I found that students were not really understanding the steps just from the notes even when I included steps.  It was actually looking at a student notebook in which the student had created her own color system for notes on polynomial long division. I thought what a great idea. I noticed she did some practice problems using her color system but eventually worked in just pencil. It seemed the colors helped her see the different parts of what we were working on. I thought I'd give it a try. 

So for the next concept I had color coded organizers with accompanying color notes. Some students absolutely loved it.  They said it really helped to see the steps visually.  Others were less excited and thought it was too much work to keep switching colors on steps.  A valid point.  

Three Benefits of Color-Coded notes: 

-increased student engagement for many.  Using color simply is more fun 
-increased independent learning students ask less questions because they can see what's happening in the pro lim 
-mastery increases.  I don't think I have seen any tool have as a bib an impact on learning jn math as the color coded notes.  Where previous students struggled, many less do now. 

The enthusiasm overall encouraged me to keep the color coded system in place. 

 If you use color-coded notes:

-make color coding optional after the first 3 lessons.  I make everyone start with color coding at the beginning of the year.  My visual learners tend to get hooked and use them all year long.  Some other students abandon color coding as soon as they can.  That's okay.  If they are getting the material that's all that matters. 
-invest in multi-sets of colored pencils 
-try to code the same throughout any unit. For example if the vertex is green in parabolas, then it should by green in all conic sections pages.

Math Mondays 
is a bi-weekly blog post (2nd and 4th Monday of each month) sharing tips, ideas, resources, and products for teaching math.  If you have questions or think there is something I should include, you can leave me a message in the comments section below or at the store in the question and answer section.