How to Take Perfect Notes in Math Class
Mathematics is a complex subject that requires careful attention to detail. There are so many calculations and formulas that it’s easy to get lost sometimes. But effective note-taking can help you to remember key information needed for exam time. Here are seven tips to help you improve your math notes and make this complex subject a little easier to understand.
Use the tools that best help you
Your notes should be tailored to how you learn best. Some strategies could include jotting down little notes next to problems for explanation or using colors to highlight certain steps of an equation that are particularly important. Also, if you have trouble writing things down quickly, ask your instructor if they would allow you to record their lesson and fill in your notes more fully after class. Knowing what style of note-taking works best for you and finding the most effective method to help you learn is the first step towards writing amazing math notes.
Use fewer words to convey the same idea
You don’t always need to write down every single word that your instructor says. Instead, try writing down only the essential information. One way to do this is to develop a shorthand. For instance, instead of saying a derivative is “a process used in calculus to calculate the rate of change…” a quicker way to say this might be “derivative = calculating rate of change.” This will not only save time, but it will also make your notes more clear without all the extra words.
Clearly mark all the steps in a formula
Since math often requires you to make specific calculations, skipping even one step can throw off your entire answer. That is why it is important to clearly mark each step in a math problem. Try numbering them along the way, using bullet points to list them, or highlighting each section to differentiate between steps. This will more clearly show the process of completing the problem and will help keep your notes organized.
Focus on explaining rather than copying examples
It can be useful to include some examples in your notes, but including too many can become redundant. The purpose of an example is to show you how the steps come together. It is often more helpful to write only a couple of examples for each new problem type, making sure that they are very clearly written down and explained. Then, if your instructor continues to provide similar examples, you will have more time to focus on watching them and make sure that your notes and explanations match up with what they are doing.
Know your problem areas
If you struggle with adding fractions but excel in long division, it’s probably not helpful to write the same amount or type of notes in both areas. Instead, try to focus on writing more detailed explanations for the problems that trip you up the most. This way, your notes will be more geared towards helping explain those areas you struggle with, instead of wasting time writing down things you already know.
Review your notes afterward
It is a good practice to look back over your notes after you have written them. Doing so will allow you to see if there are any inconsistencies or unclear sections. You can also go back and add new information to help better clarify things. Then, if a particular section is causing you problems, you can circle or highlight it and try to find an answer, either by researching online or by consulting your instructor.
Ask for clarification
In math, you need to understand both how to make calculations and how to use those calculations in equations, and it’s easy to get confused along the way. If you have difficulty grasping any aspect of a math problem, ask your instructor for clarification, either during class or afterward. You can also consult reputable online resources like Math.com, Mathway, or WebMATH for further explanation, or watch others solve similar equations online through channels like MathHelp or mathonpoint.
Effective note-taking is essential to better understanding math problems and to doing well in math in general. Focusing on explaining processes rather than copying your instructor word-for-word, knowing where your problem areas lie, seeking help when you need it, reviewing your notes often, and knowing what tools you find helpful can help you start to write notes that are invaluable for studying.