# Taking Math Notes: Tips & Techniques for Note Taking

• ValenceElectron
In summary: To try to get a good understanding of the underlying concepts first, and to try to make their own sketches and models of the concepts as they work through the problems.to try to get a good understanding of the underlying concepts first, and to try to make their own sketches and models of the concepts as they work through the problems.In summary,Taking notes for math classes can be a difficult process. Some people prefer to use a method similar to a homework packet, while others prefer to try to understand the concepts before writing anything down. If you're taking a higher level math course, you may want to try to use notes to help you remember the concepts.
ValenceElectron
TL;DR Summary: How do you take notes for math?

Hello, I'm wondering how everyone here takes notes for their math classes. In all my most recent math classes we just have a packet we work through that's a combination of problems that the teacher guides us through and that we do on our own for homework. I don't really like this system, but when I try taking notes on my own I don't really like how those come out either.

So, how do you take notes? Do you offer explanations to the problems (my packets don't :/), does your method change depending on what you're studying, do you outline? I'm working through the algebra 1 course on Khan Academy and so far everything is fairly familiar (since I'm technically retaking the course because the year I took it in school was COVID and no one learned anything), but I'll probably need to take notes eventually. Right now I'm only writing down the practice problems I can't do in my head.

Truthfully, I didn't take notes on math. I just sat there and absorbed what was taught and then I read the book and did problems to reinforce it.

I had a friend in high school go the hand note-taking route and he did very poorly. He just couldn't keep up with what the teacher was saying nor what was written on the board.

With todays technology, I would go with something like Notability where you can draw and take notes while the app is recording the lesson and while tying your notes to the audio recording. Later as you review the audio, you can click on a note and it will jump to the corresponding point in the recording.

I suppose you could take snapshots of the whiteboard but that might be distracting to other students. You could video record the whole lesson too for later review when you make your notes.

ValenceElectron
jedishrfu said:
Truthfully, I didn't take notes on math. I just sat there and absorbed what was taught and then I read the book and did problems to reinforce it.

I had a friend in high school go the hand note-taking route and he did very poorly. He just couldn't keep up with what the teacher was saying nor what was written on the board.

With today's technology, I would go with something like Notability where you can draw and take notes while the app is recording the lesson and while tying your notes to the audio recording. Later as you review the audio, you can click on a note and it will jump to the corresponding point in the recording.

I suppose you could take snapshots of the whiteboard but that might be distracting to other students. You could video record the whole lesson too for later review when you make your notes.
If I had an IPad or Macbook I'd definately go for Notability, my sister used it throughout her biology degree and I've always loved the very "sleek" design. For my school notes I'll probably just stick to the packet, and I don't know about self study yet, hence why I'm asking this forum, haha. I'm mostly just worried about forgetting basic things that are now causing me to struggle, but it's hard to tell if that's because of my poor algebra one foundation or just bad memory.

For higher level math courses, like calculus and up, did you use notes? I'll be taking calc in college and I plan on trying to get a heads up on pre-cal this summer to prepare for fall.

jedishrfu said:
Truthfully, I didn't take notes on math.
I did, and in physics as well.
jedishrfu said:
I had a friend in high school go the hand note-taking route and he did very poorly.
But how was he at spelling?
jedishrfu said:
With today's technology,
... none of which was available when I was an undergrad. Hi tech was slide rules with more than just the A/B and C/D scales. Phones were connected to the wall and didn't take pictures. Calculators came around late in my undergrad career, but the only people I knew who could afford them were drug dealers.

jedishrfu
Mark44 said:
I did, and in physics as well.
Well, did it help?? What techniques would you recommend, if any?

I took notes on how problems were solved in both math and physics.

ValenceElectron
ValenceElectron said:
Well, did it help?? What techniques would you recommend, if any?
Yes.
This goes back a lot of years, when instructors didn't use computers or software such as PowerPoint. As I recall, don't try to copy verbatim everything that the instructor says or writes -- try to get the main points he or she is trying to emphasize.

More recently, the last time I taught a calculus class a few years ago, I would work problems on the whiteboard, and would show some slides I had made that represented volume integrals and such. I encouraged students to take notes, as the examples I picked weren't from the textbook. I would also pause at times to try to gauge whether the students were following what I was doing or had questions. That also had the benefit of letting them catch up

The danger of just watching an instructor work a problem is that everything seems to flow so naturally and seem so straightforward and easy. This can be very misleading -- when you as a student go to work on a similar problem, you probably don't have the experience to know what sorts of things to do or try, and in what order.

In other classes I taught recently (mostly computer science classes), I would put together PowerPoint slide decks that I would make available to my students. I didn't just read off the slides to them -- I would elaborate on the points in the slides or give examples. Presumably some students would take note of the additional stuff that wasn't in the slides.

ValenceElectron and dlgoff
Mark44 said:
I would work problems on the whiteboard,
Chalk on a black-board in my days.

ValenceElectron
Mark44 said:
The danger of just watching an instructor work a problem is that everything seems to flow so naturally and seem so straightforward and easy. This can be very misleading -- when you as a student go to work on a similar problem, you probably don't have the experience to know what sorts of things to do or try, and in what order.
Incredibly true. Definitely has happened to me a lot.

Mark44 said:
This goes back a lot of years, when instructors didn't use computers or software such as PowerPoint. As I recall, don't try to copy verbatim everything that the instructor says or writes -- try to get the main points he or she is trying to emphasize.

dlgoff said:
I took notes on how problems were solved in both math and physics.
Well...yeah, but HOW did you take notes? What methods did you use? How did you study from them?

My friend did great in history and english but sadly couldn't fathom math. I felt it was due to his attempt to take down everything the teacher said and wrote on the board to the point of recreating graphs that were changed. I think he had panic attacks or was just obsessive in his notetaking. In contrast, I didn't do as well as he in History and English making straight B's to his A+'s grades.

One teacher in particular was noted for tough tests. He once told us that he takes his own test and if he can complete it in 5 minutes then we should be able to do it in 45 mins. To prove his point he showed us what answers were acceptable on one of our recent tests. He would draw a graph without tick marks for x and y axes and showed we could use the tickmarks for x value of a point and then a vertical line with more tick marks for y value of the same point. No axis tickmark labeling and other unnecessary labeling. The bare minimum to show you knew the answer. It was Algebra 2 class I think where we did a lot of slope intercept type problems.

As an aside, I had a love hate relationship with this teacher. He was an older gentleman near retirement and an amateur thespian in the local theatre. One time in class, the window slammed shut due to some powerful draft and he startled, jumped up, grabbed his heart and said "my heart, my heart." We stupidly thought he was joking until he turned around and his eyes burned into our souls and we didn't know what to say.

I had recently been inducted into the Natl Honor Society. This was during the time when teachers nominated students. During recess, I was walking by his class and cheerfully said "Hello Mr B----" and he grabbed me aside and told me to never speak to him in that tone again. I was completely shell-shocked and didn't know how to respond. He apparently thought I was mocking him I guess, I never figured out why.

Another time, he mentioned in passing, in Geometry class that trisection angle proofs always had a flaw where there would be two arcs and a line that appeared to intersect but didn't upon closer inspection. The following year he had a math contest where he posted an angle trisection and asked what was wrong with it. I studied it, found the flaw, and raced into his homeroom class to be the first to report it. Somewhat annoyed, he shooed me out and few weeks later announced that I had indeed found the flaw.

As a math teacher, he was one of the best but I never figured him out and was afraid to approach him with any question.

ValenceElectron
dlgoff said:
Chalk on a black-board in my days.
Yep, me, too. And I had a box of colored chalk.
Later on, when we got computers in classrooms, they had to switch to whiteboards because the computers didn't do well with a bunch of chalk dust inside them, so the classrooms were fitted with whiteboards.

I was always very penurious with my own, personal dry-erase markers, only taking off the caps when I was writing with them and replacing the caps as soon as I was done. Usually, the markers that were left in the room were just about all dried up and couldn't make a legible mark on the board.

dlgoff
jedishrfu said:
My friend did great in history and english but sadly couldn't fathom math. I felt it was due to his attempt to take down everything the teacher said and wrote on the board to the point of recreating graphs that were changed. I think he had panic attacks or was just obsessive in his notetaking. In contrast, I didn't do as well as he in History and English making straight B's to his A+'s grades.

One teacher in particular was noted for tough tests. He once told us that he takes his own test and if he can complete it in 5 minutes then we should be able to do it in 45 mins. To prove his point he showed us what answers were acceptable on one of our recent tests. He would draw a graph without tick marks for x and y axes and showed we could use the tickmarks for x value of a point and then a vertical line with more tick marks for y value of the same point. No axis tickmark labeling and other unnecessary labeling. The bare minimum to show you knew the answer. It was Algebra 2 class I think where we did a lot of slope intercept type problems.

As an aside, I had a love hate relationship with this teacher. He was an older gentleman near retirement and an amateur thespian in the local theatre. One time in class, the window slammed shut due to some powerful draft and he startled, jumped up, grabbed his heart and said "my heart, my heart." We stupidly thought he was joking until he turned around and his eyes burned into our souls and we didn't know what to say.

I had recently been inducted into the Natl Honor Society. This was during the time when teachers nominated students. During recess, I was walking by his class and cheerfully said "Hello Mr B----" and he grabbed me aside and told me to never speak to him in that tone again. I was completely shell-shocked and didn't know how to respond. He apparently thought I was mocking him I guess, I never figured out why.

Another time, he mentioned in passing, in Geometry class that trisection angle proofs always had a flaw where there would be two arcs and a line that appeared to intersect but didn't upon closer inspection. The following year he had a math contest where he posted an angle trisection and asked what was wrong with it. I studied it, found the flaw, and raced into his homeroom class to be the first to report it. Somewhat annoyed, he shooed me out and few weeks later announced that I had indeed found the flaw.

As a math teacher, he was one of the best but I never figured him out and was afraid to approach him with any question.
Kind of reminds me of my current math teacher. He has the most personality of any I've ever had (which is incredibly refreshing), he understands our stupid teenager humor, and hates the US education system as much as us. As a teacher though, he's alright. He makes our lessons fun but I'm still left confused a lot of the time, but that may just be because my algebra 1 foundation isn't solid and the class is pretty fast paced. Still, it's been my best year as far as math teachers though.

ValenceElectron said:
Well...yeah, but HOW did you take notes? What methods did you use? How did you study from them?
I wrote out the problem verbatim to the what was on the board since the problems assigned were very similar. Several of us students would get together in the evening and work solving the problems we were asked to solve.

jedishrfu and ValenceElectron
dlgoff said:
I wrote out the problem verbatim to the what was on the board since the problems assigned were very similar. Several of us students would get together in the evening and work solving the problems we were asked to solve.
Study groups are a smart idea

jedishrfu and dlgoff
dlgoff said:
Chalk on a black-board in my days.
I wish I had a chalk board......I've only found one where I teach and the room is too small for my classes.

## 1. What is the purpose of taking math notes?

The purpose of taking math notes is to help you better understand and retain the material being taught. It allows you to organize and summarize key concepts, formulas, and examples in a way that is easy for you to review and reference later on.

## 2. How should I format my math notes?

There is no one right way to format math notes, as it ultimately depends on your personal preference and learning style. However, some common techniques include using bullet points, diagrams, and color-coding to organize information. It is also helpful to leave space for additional notes and examples as you review the material.

## 3. Should I write down every single thing my teacher says during a math lecture?

No, it is not necessary to write down every single thing your teacher says during a math lecture. Instead, focus on the main points and key concepts being discussed. You can also ask your teacher for a copy of their lecture slides or notes to supplement your own.

## 4. How can I improve my note-taking skills for math?

One way to improve your note-taking skills for math is to actively listen and engage during lectures. This means paying attention to key points and asking questions when you don't understand something. It is also helpful to review and organize your notes after class, and to practice summarizing and explaining concepts in your own words.

## 5. Should I use pen or pencil when taking math notes?

It is recommended to use pencil when taking math notes, as it allows for easier corrections and revisions. However, if you prefer using pen, make sure to use a color that stands out and is easy to read. It is also helpful to leave some space between equations and examples to make your notes more legible.

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