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A Guide to Successful Note-Taking in Maths

Compared to other subjects, math requires a slightly different approach to learning. This also means you need specialized note-taking methods. Read our guide for how to achieve clarity in your math notes.

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Key points:

  • Because math involves abstract ideas, detailed steps, complex symbols, and the need for lots of practice, it is a special subject that needs its own way of taking notes.
  • Learning how to take efficient math notes can greatly improve your capacity to successfully cope with the challenging world of mathematics and achieve academic success.

Mathematics, which is often described as a universal language, elicits a wide range of reactions from students. Some people are eager to face its challenges, while others may be intimidated by complex equations and abstract concepts. Whatever side of the spectrum you fall on, one thing is certain: effective note-taking in math is critical for understanding and excelling in this subject.

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In most subjects, like History or Language, students are taught how to take notes effectively. However, when it comes to math, the importance of a strategic approach to note-taking is sometimes overlooked. Instead, it is common practice to advise students to jot down every single detail, including concepts, formulas, and mathematical problems. Unfortunately, taking overly detailed notes can hinder rather than help students in math, regardless of their success in other subjects.

Math is distinct from many other subjects in that it demands a unique approach to note-taking, primarily due to its abstract nature and emphasis on problem-solving. Unlike subjects where text and narratives are central, math relies heavily on symbols, formulas, and logical sequences. These complex components require careful note-taking and interpretation to support the learning process and help retain information in the long run.

In this article, we will explore why math requires special attention when it comes to note-taking and provide you with valuable tips to enhance your math note-taking skills for a successful learning experience.

Why math requires special note-taking

Let us look at some of the main reasons why having special note-taking tricks up your sleeve is essential for math success. 

• Math concepts are abstract.

Mathematics is a subject filled with abstract concepts that can be tricky to understand and may make you feel like grasping at thin air. In this situation, taking effective notes serves as a link between these abstract concepts and tangible, understandable representations. You can start to slowly unravel the mysteries of mathematics by breaking these difficult concepts down into more manageable parts in your notes.

• It is a step-by-step procedure.

Math naturally follows a step-by-step procedure. Whether it’s Algebra, Calculus, or Geometry, mathematical problems typically involve a logical progression of steps that end with a solution. Your entire problem-solving process can be derailed by forgetting even one important detail. Thus, having well-organized notes is crucial for giving you a clear path to follow and preventing you from skipping any important steps during the problem-solving process.

• It consists primarily of symbols and formulas.

The language of mathematics is essentially represented by symbols, notations, and formulas, each of which has a distinct meaning. To prevent confusion and misinterpretation later on, precise notation in your notes is crucial. The accuracy and consistency of the symbols you use in your notes help to increase the dependability of your mathematical calculations.

• It requires application and constant practice.

Math requires more than just conceptual understanding; practice and application are equally important. Mastering math relies on practice and repetition, and your notes should serve as a valuable resource. They should contain problem-solving tips, practice problem solutions, and key ideas for review, transforming into a valuable tool to enhance your understanding and mathematical skills through consistent practice.

A teacher standing and explaining something to students

Tips for effective math note-taking

Here are some pointers to help you effectively prepare for and begin taking notes on your math lessons, ensuring that you make the most out of your learning experience.

  1. Set up your notebook or digital note-taking app. Boost your math learning by dedicating a separate notebook or digital section for math notes, ensuring clear separation from other subjects. Before each math lesson, gather essential materials like notebooks, pens, pencils, and a calculator, ensuring distraction-free readiness.
  2. Get your notes in order. Include the date and a concise topic title in your notes at the start of each math session to make them easier to find in the future. Take your time to grasp the concepts before recording them, and maintain an organized structure by using headings and subheadings for different topics. Finding specific information during your study sessions will be made easier by this methodical approach.

  3. Use diagrams, charts, and graphs. Make sure your notes have enough space for diagrams and graphs, especially when discussing mathematical ideas that need to be represented visually. Use graphs, charts, and diagrams to enhance your comprehension and reinforce key ideas within your notes. 

  4. Use abbreviations and symbols. Create a collection of standard abbreviations and symbols that you can use in your math notes. This can speed up the process of taking notes, especially when dealing with formulas or terms that are frequently used.

  5. Always highlight key concepts. To make it easy to find important information in your notes, highlight key formulas, theorems, or definitions using underlining or color coding. By following this procedure, you can quickly find important information when reviewing your notes.

  6. Practice solving sample problems. Math skills really do improve with practice, so reserve a section in your notes specifically for practice problems and their solutions for easy reference. It is helpful to create a step-by-step guide in your notes for different types of problems. Include the formulas and concepts that relate to each problem. Remember, getting better at math takes practice, so as you take your regular notes, make sure to work on problem-solving exercises that align with what you’re learning. Write down how you approach and solve these problems to track your progress.
  7. Regularly review and edit your notes. Set aside time to regularly go over and revise your math notes to help you understand them better. Update your notes by adding new details so you can be sure that your notes will always be a useful tool. Make sure to correct any errors and add clarifications as necessary to ensure that your notes are accurate and make sense to you.
  1. If something is unclear, ask questions. If there is a particular problem you are having trouble with, jot down your thoughts in your math notebook. Afterward, seek clarification from your instructor or other students. It demonstrates that you are paying attention and might improve your understanding of the material.
  1. Join a group for study and discussion. Discussions with others can make math easier to understand. Think about organizing study groups or engaging in difficult problem-solving with peers. Work together with your peers to compare and expand on your notes. This can offer additional information where necessary and present various viewpoints on the subject.
A school chalkboard with formulas written on it

Math-specific note-taking techniques

While there are not as many widely accepted note-taking techniques in math as there are in other subjects, there are still several techniques that will help you take better math notes. Here are a few helpful techniques:

  • Graphic Organizers – You can make math concepts easier to grasp by using visual tools like mind maps, concept maps, and idea webs. Imagine each concept as a node or bubble, and connect them with labeled lines to show how they relate to one another. This visual approach helps you see the bigger picture and how different ideas in math connect. Charts and diagrams are also handy for representing and comparing various mathematical concepts and calculations.
  • Scaffolded Notes – If you know the rough structure of your class, design note templates in advance with predefined sections for various types of math content like definitions, theorems, formulas and notations, and example problems. This method ensures that your notes are consistent and simplifies the process of finding specific information when you need it.
  • Color Coding – Use color coding to distinguish between different types of data or ideas in your math notes. You could, for instance, designate one color for formulas, another for definitions, and yet another for examples. Your notes can become more accessible and organized with this visual cue.
  • Write-on-slide Method – If you’re given access to lecture slides in advance, make the most of annotation tools. They allow you to write, highlight, and add notes directly to the math content, making it easier to interact with and understand the problems and explanations.
  • Math Journals – Although less relevant for notes in class, maintain a math journal where you can record your steps for solving problems, your solutions, and any errors or “aha” moments you come across. This journal is a valuable tool for tracking your progress, learning from your mistakes, and gaining insights from your learning journey.
A girl writing on the board with a marker, surrounded by her classmates


Math is a unique subject that benefits from well-organized, visual, and comprehensive note-taking. Keep in mind that the best note-taking method for math can vary from person to person. So, try different techniques to find what works best for your learning style and needs. You can also combine several methods for a more comprehensive approach to taking math notes. The more effort you invest in your math notes, the better equipped you will be to tackle math challenges and excel in your studies.