Annotation Guide

What is annotation?

Annotation is a strategy for recording the collective thinking of a group of students during a classroom discussion to improve access to the mathematical ideas presented for all students.

  • While a student describes their strategy, or as another student restates another student’s strategy, either the teacher or a student records the thinking on a diagram of the task. 
  • The strategic use of color, symbols, words, and diagrams can help students make mathematical connections and/or see mathematical structure. 
  • This creates a record that can be referred to later and allows all students to have access to the ideas being discussed. 
  • Annotation also reduces some ambiguity that exists in language so that students know what is being talked about.
  • Annotation provides a visual for students still developing the language of instruction.


This folder has more examples of annotation.



  1. Do the task yourself.
  2. Consider the mathematical content and/or practice goal of the task.
  3. Anticipate student approaches to the task.
  4. Practice annotating those student approaches, paying attention to how the annotation supports the goal of the task. 
  5. Be strategic in your use of annotations and try not to overwhelm students with too much detail. 
  6. Note that some students have color blindness, so avoid the use of green and use symbols as well as color to help students make connections.