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What is a Computation Notebook?

Troy Holmes
Troy Holmes

Notebooks are books of paper that are used for the capturing of hand-written information. A Computation notebook is a paper book that has special ruled lines of columns and rows for capturing information. This type of notebook has the appearance of graph paper and is typically used in engineering, math, and science.

Throughout history, mankind has used writing devices to capture information. Many historical writings were done on caves and stones. Ancient writing on paper began many centuries ago. These documents were written on scrolls, which were created from papyrus, paper, or parchment.

Engineers may use a computation notebook to calculate and track information.
Engineers may use a computation notebook to calculate and track information.

The use of formal paper for capturing written information has been traced back to the third-century in China. During that time paper was made from the bark of trees. Paper did not replace parchment as the standard writing material until late into the 10th century. During that time the first paper mill was invented and the use of paper exploded across most of Europe.

The computation notebook is used in most colleges and universities in classes on multiple subjects. The format of this notebook makes delineation between topics easy to read and understand. Most math professors require their students to use a graphic format notebook to define math problems.

Many math algorithms and functions require a grid layout to plot the conditions or coordinates of an expression. A computation notebook includes a grid layout throughout the pages. This format provides a guide for documenting extensive mathematical problems. By using the grids as guidelines the problems are represented in clearly organized manner.

The ruled lines of a computation notebook do not appear on a photo copy of a document. This makes copies of this form of notebook appear extremely organized and professional because it gives the appearance that each computation was written with a ruler. For this reason many scientists use this form of paper to capture theories and other scientific data.

The computation notebook is available in many sizes. All of the available notebooks typically have quad ruled lines that are four squares per inch (2.54cm). Each page includes a header and margin area with a preprinted page number.

These types of notebooks are available in both hard-bound and soft-bound covers with either wire or sewn perforations. The paper color is typically green or white with graph lines of either blue or dark green. Green paper is preferred by many because it is easer to read and reducing eyestrain.

Discussion Comments


@everetra - I had no idea that computation notebooks would not reveal their graph lines when photocopied.

That’s a great feature in my opinion; it immediately makes your “sketch” look like a finished print, without any guide lines. I guess I never bothered to photocopy my work or I would have known that.


@everetra - Computation notebooks are quite common in both computer science and engineering.

I’ve used them as well for some of my computer classes, but what’s interesting is that one of my electronics courses had textbooks that were all laid out in what appeared to be computation notebooks.

They weren’t literally computation notebooks, but the pages were graphed in the same way that our notebooks were, to better aid in illustrating the diagrams of the circuits.

You’re right – it does make things easier to format and understand.


I hadn’t seen these computation notebooks since college days, when I used them a lot in my engineering classes. I went through multiple volumes of engineering computation notebooks during the course of my college term.

Years later, I had to buy computation notebooks again for my young boy’s homework in math. He was plotting linear equations and it brought back memories. There is something about the nice, lined symmetry that we normally called “graph paper” that makes homework, and everything else written on it seem so nice and orderly.

It also helps me draw too, since the lines serve as decent guides that I can trace over.

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    • Engineers may use a computation notebook to calculate and track information.
      By: corepics
      Engineers may use a computation notebook to calculate and track information.