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Why do so many people take so many notes?

  1. Nov 30, 2004 #1
    In my university, you have to take Calc I, even if you took it in high school. There's a different class for it, but it's still just good old calc I. And everyone in that class writes down everything the teacher says. Even that the derivitave is the slope of the tangent line.

    WHY?

    If, at the end of the semester, you don't know that, after already having taken calculus, and after another semester of it, you'll be lucky to pass. But I looked around, and I was THE ONLY PERSON who didn't copy it down.

    Why the heck do people copy so many darn notes? Even when it's obviously pointless?

    I have always wondered this.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2004 #2

    Chronos

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    Some people, present company included, find it much easier to remember things they write down. I just know from personal experience that I had near perfect recall of concepts/facts when I took notes. It got to where I even took notes when doing reading assignments. I can't explain it, but it worked. Pencil push-ups build brain muscles?
     
  4. Nov 30, 2004 #3
    Sure, I know what you mean. I take a fair bit of notes in some of my classes, but if you don't know that the derivitave is the slope of a tangent line by INSTINCT, how could you *possibly* have a prayer of doing well in calculus?
     
  5. Nov 30, 2004 #4
    I don't take notes at all. Guess there must be something wrong with me.

    I imagine you're in a class of people who've been raised on the principle that everything the instructor says is important and therefore should be noted. I, on the other hand, was raised on the principle of the instructor hates me, so taking notes wasn't so important to me.

    Plus I kinda figured out that any notes that I did take I wouldn't go back and look at anyway and that they didn't help me. So I stopped doing it.

    And I've heard that taking notes is a useful technique for staying awake in an extremely dull class. Never tried it myself, and it didn't help the nice fellow sitting next to me in colloquium, but you could run the experiment yourself if you wanted.

    --J
     
  6. Nov 30, 2004 #5

    PerennialII

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    I'm a supporter of this theory ... lecturers are typically dull enough to merge with the blackboard, the only thing that has been keeping me awake are notes. Nowadays this function has been replaced by my PDA, but I think the notes were worthwhile in forcing me to sink in with the subject, after the credits are in my pocket I usually don't go back on my notes ... constructed material is better.
     
  7. Nov 30, 2004 #6
    I take notes, although I always wonder why. However, I did take a class once, music appreciation (no doubt the most boring class I have ever taken), where the instructor would cover things in class that were not in the book. So when the tests came around I would actually have to go back and read my notes to do good on the test. Other than that I would say taking notes is just another way of memorizing, or pounding-in, the material
     
  8. Nov 30, 2004 #7

    Tide

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    Do you think some folks take copious notes as a means of staying awake? :-)
     
  9. Nov 30, 2004 #8

    PerennialII

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    More like an attempt to stay in the loop -- I've never found notes made by others to have nearly the same use as those you do yourself. In that case if there is any other available material it's typically better to focus on that.
     
  10. Nov 30, 2004 #9

    ZapperZ

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    People take notes for various reasons. I find that a lot students just simply jot down whatever is written on the board without considering if it is important, already know, obvious, etc.

    However, there is also another reason to want to write everything down. When I used to teach intro physics, I explicitly tell the students to not only pay attention to the material being presented, but also pay attention to how I approach certain problems. I was trying to teach them not only the subject matter involved in solving a problem, for example, but also a good problem solving technique. This last part is often neglected in many physics instructions. So in this case, it is pertinent that one tries to copy everything, even things that appear "trivial". Let me illustrate...

    Let's say we are tackling an electrostatic problem involving an infinite line charge. A typical problem would ask for the E-field at some distance away from the axis of symmetry of that line charge. For most students, knowing where to start itself is a major task! So when I'm tackling this problem for the class, I would literally write on the board:

    Now, for most "bright" students, which is absurdly obvious. But to an avarage or lagging students, this tells them clearly why we are starting off right away by choosing Gauss's Law and not Coulomb's law, the latter of which can involve painful integrations of several variables.

    Next, once we know what to use, there is another "obvious" statement that is required:

    Again, this may appear to be painfully obvious. But you see, writing it down explicitly accomplished two things: (i) it clearly stated the decisions being made based on the PHYSICS of the problem, and (ii) it allows one to remember WHY these choices were made weeks or months from now when one is either reviewing or studing it once more.

    I wrote these "obvious" things down almost without fail each time I tackle a problem, and it may have bored many students who may have thought I'm simply wasting time. However, these are the intangible skills that the student must have in tackling such problems. Most physics instructors simply write down these things without the explicit explanation why such-and-such were used and why were they used THAT way. The ability and skill to do that IS the physics part of solving the problem. Once we have set those up, the rest is just mindless mathematics to grind away!

    So yes, maybe in some instances, there is a need to write down all the painfully obvious details, especially if the instructor is also trying to instill a habit of good problem-solving technique. Such things may not be that crucial if one has already mastered that particular topic, but for most of us "average" people, we always have to put some effort into making sure we understand something. So sometime, writing everything down does help.

    Zz.
     
  11. Nov 30, 2004 #10
    I don't know, i'm only about 3 months into my University life :) So i'm no expert on how to tackle lectures. But i found that in my first 2 weeks i did it like ZapperZ said, wrote everything mindlessly down, eventually i figured out most of it is already written down in the book, and i myself at least (and this seems to be contrary to what most people feel, judging by this thread), have a very hard time following the class and trying to UNDERSTAND the material, while i'm writing it down. Usually (at least my professors) say a lot more in the class then just what they write on the blackboard, and what tends to be on the blackboard is usually in the book, but what he says and explains in words is usually what i need to better understand the material (and i tend to miss this and not take it in if i'm busy catching up to what he wrote on the blackboard).
     
  12. Nov 30, 2004 #11
    I would recommend that you attempt to take notes even if it is trivial material that you already know. Learning to take good notes is vital.
     
  13. Nov 30, 2004 #12

    HallsofIvy

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    How could you *possibly* know that the derivative is the slope of a tangent line by INSTINCT without having studied it?

    Yes, I understand that by the time you are taking a test on it, you must KNOW that without needing to think about it. But the way you get to that point is by studying. It certainly helps to have the DEFINITION of derivative as the "slope of the tangent line" on hand to refer to while learning that. And, as Chronos said, many (in fact, MOST) people remember something they wrote down better even if they never consult their notes again.
     
  14. Nov 30, 2004 #13

    PerennialII

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    Yeah, know the feeling .... I think listening and understanding first and writing down second... at least works for me. Some profs want to cover too much material making the learning process suffer from the overall haste, on occation it is easy to get fixated on the other, but I think on most occations hearing the guy out is what gives ya the most (at least if as a teach they have any resemblance to Zz, would not mind attending his classes from the looks of it).
     
  15. Nov 30, 2004 #14

    Ba

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    What I hate are teachers who expect you to take notes and then collect them for a grade at the end of the class. I remember once I was doing a pretty comprehensive history course, I wrote down links and the stuff I wasn't going to remember. Then at the end of the class we had a test, an open note test. I got a hundred percent on the test higher than everyone else by twelve percent, but like a twenty percent on the notes. I take notes to help me learn and it does, but I've never been one for copying every word that exits the teachers mouth.
     
  16. Dec 1, 2004 #15

    JasonRox

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    The bottom line is that you pay several thousand dollars for some guy with a Ph.D. to read you a text.

    I learn more doing it myself. I would rather have very few lectures or none, while just receiving directions by the prof.

    Sometimes the curriculum itself is bad along with bad directions and you won't figure this out until you talk to the prof. Once you talk to the prof you will notice that he might refer to other texts, and then ask him about it. If he/she has a Ph.D, he/she certainly knows the best text. Find out what the text is like, and buy it if it seems more relevant than the course material.

    The above is exactly what I did because I found that the text by Stewart (Calculus) was a joke, and then the prof directed me towards Spivak's text. Now, I'm happy and I will never buy a text that is for the course even if assignments are attached to it. We have access to the assignment questions even if we don't have a text. Now, I learned I got ripped off because they directed me towards piece of **** texts.

    Writing notes? Writing the theorems and proofs of course, but the examples... give me a break.
     
  17. Dec 1, 2004 #16

    chroot

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    I tend to take sparse notes. Normally, I only take a page or two of notes for an hour-long class. My notes are for my eyes only, after all, so why bother writing things down that I already know very well? I only record things that are new to me, extremely important for good marks, very complex, or not contained in the textbook. I've almost always found that reading the textbook is a better use of my time than reading my (or anyone else's) notes.

    - Warren
     
  18. Dec 1, 2004 #17
    Amen to that,...i completely agree with you chroot...

    I hate it when i saw students copying every single word during classes at college...i did not go the classes much because i liked to study on my own...when problems occur , write them all down and then just go to the prof himself...that's the best way to get cristal clear explanations...

    regards
    marlon
     
  19. Dec 1, 2004 #18
    I have found that even If i take notes I never look back at them. The only classes I find taking notes usefull now is in physics and Calc BC... I am still in high school
     
  20. Dec 1, 2004 #19
    I never take notes for humanities classes because I have a pretty good memory for stories and such. I do take notes for math and science classes, however, mainly because if you take notes your mind does not wander as much compared to when you don't. Mainly just whatever gets written on the blackboard however, at my leisure.
    Back in the day, however, I never took notes in anything which worried my teachers to know end. I still think my algebra teacher gets a new grey hair every time he remembers his fiascos with me... didn't matter I had a decent grade, I wasn't taking notes so the apocalypse was no doubt imminent. But that's another story.
     
  21. Dec 1, 2004 #20

    JasonRox

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    I stay focused on the class and I think of other applications/proofs. The only classes I can't stay focused on are humanities, etc... because they are boring as hell.

    A friend of mine has laptop and when some crazy problems come up he goes ahead and solves it on Maple or searches for a proof if the professor isn't going to present it.

    I always look for contradictions and what not.
     
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