Index cards: a not-so-novel approach

So the title for this post is clearly a little tongue in cheek – Carl Linnaeus invented the Index Card in the 1760s, and they’ve had a wide number of applications since then, including to education. On twitter tonight, though, a post from @EduTweetOz got me thinking about how I use index cards in the classroom, and the fact that for some beginning (or established) teachers, their use in the classroom may be a little novel.

I always keep a stash of index cards in my teacher pencil case and I find them a handy tool in the classroom. Some of my favourite ways of using them are:

  • My Favourite No” – I frame this as an activity at the start of a lesson, where I’ll put a problem on the board which is either novel (testing students ability to apply what has been taught in previous lessons), or is a recap of what has been learned previously. Example: “Question: find the surface area of a triangular prism (year 10 maths). Students complete the problem on the index card, I collect the cards, and flip through, looking for common sources of error. I then copy the problem to the board exactly as the student has written their solutionAs a class we go through the student’s problem, discussing the sources of error and affirming what has been done “well” in their attempt at solving the problem. 
  • As an exit ticket to review the content that has been covered that lesson. It might be a problem relating to the maths work covered that day (or earlier in the week), to write an introductory paragraph on a content covered that day in a humanities subject, or to write a sentence using new vocabulary learnt in a language subject
  • Asking students to write their own problem, relating to what has been covered that day, and then get them to solve it. Extension: ask students to identify where the ‘sticking points’ might be for other students.
  • Reflection. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of integrating reflection/metacognition into my classroom (I’m writing a PhD on it), and I love to tie together a lesson with some reflection questions. Some of my favourites are:
    • What was the most important thing you learnt today?
    • What was the key idea of today’s lesson?
    • What are you finding most tricky at the moment?
    • What are you finding is helping you learn at the moment?
    • What questions do you still have for me?
    • What is stopping you from reaching your potential in (maths) at the moment?
    • What is a success you’ve had lately?
    • What are some of the key terms from this week’s lesson?
    • What is an important formula or rule you have learnt lately?

I’ve enjoyed spontaneously pumping out this post this evening; I have been thinking recently about getting back into blogging and sharing some of my thoughts. My PhD is slowly edging towards completion – I’m hoping to have it submitted mid-year.

I would love to hear your thoughts about using index cards or similar materials in the classroom – how do you love to use them and what do you find effective? I have heard of other teachers using post-it-notes effectively to enhance their practice and communication with students.

Until next time (which hopefully won’t be another four years away),




About madelinebevs

Mathematics and religion teacher and researcher. Runner. Home-renovation enthusiast. PhD Candidate. I'm excited by education. Having taught high-school mathematics for several years I am currently studying a Master of Education (Honours) in mathematics education, with the aim to ‘upgrade’ to a PhD later this year. My research is addressing how the constructivist epistemology (more specifically explicit instruction in metacognitive and self-reflective strategies) influences students’ affective domain. Mathematics education and research excites me greatly. I’m thrilled that I have the opportunity to write and work in this area. This blog will be (mostly) a collection of opinion pieces published several times a week on contemporary issues in mathematics education, with an Australian focus. More often than not topics will be generated from recent news headlines.
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2 Responses to Index cards: a not-so-novel approach

  1. Great post Madeline. Big fan of post it notes. Love a good critical friends protocol, pink post-its for ‘wonders’ and green for ‘likes’, or a block party protocol sharing challenges or key learnings.

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