To become a better note-taker, you must know when to take notes and when not to take notes.  The instructor will give cues that indicate what material is important.  Some such cues include:

  • presenting usual facts or ideas

  • writing on the board

  • summarizing

  • pausing

  • repeating statements

  • enumerating; such as, "1, 2, 3" or "A, B, C"

  • working several examples of the same type of problem on the black-board

  • making statements such as, "This is a tricky problem.  Most students will miss it.  The answer is 'undefined' instead of 'zero'."

  • saying, "This is the most difficult step in the problem."

  • indicating that certain types of problems will be on the test, such as coin or age word problems

  • explaining bold-print words

You must learn the cues your instructor gives indicating important material.  If you are in doubt about the importance of the class material, do not hesitate to ask the instructor about its importance.

While taking notes, you may become confused about math material.  At that point, take as many notes as possible, and do not give up on note-taking.

As you take notes on confusing problem steps, skip lines; then go back and fill in information that clarifies your misunderstanding of the steps in question.  Ask your tutor or instructor for help with the uncompleted problem steps, and write down the reasons for each step in the space provided.

Another procedure to save time while taking notes is to not write complete sentences.  Write your main thoughts in phrases.  Phrases are easier to jot down and easier to memorize.  Also, abbreviate to save time.

Some Common Abbreviations
E.G. for example REF reference


marks important materials likely to be used in an exam D shows disagreement with statement or passage
N.B. note well, this is important et al and others
( ) parentheses in the margin, around a sentence or group of sentences indicates an important idea bk book
Ñ because pp pages


a circle around a word may indicate that you are not familiar with it; look it up ? used to indicate that you do not understand the material
> greater than V see
< less than VS see above
= equals, is the same SC namely
 ¹ does not equal, is not the same SQ the following
\ therefore Comm. Commutative
etc. and so forth Dis. Distributive
Ì implies, it follows from this A.P.A. Associative Property of Addition
CF. compare, remember in context A.I. Additive Inverse
1, 2, 3 to indicate a series of facts I.P.M. Identity Property of Multiplication
- Paul D. Nolting, Ph.D., Winning at Math, 1997 1989 by Academic Success Press, Inc