Note-taking Tips

Note-taking Tips

Warm-up for class

  • Review notes from previous class
  • Review textbook section that is to be covered in class
  • Review homework
  • Prepare at least two questions about the content to be covered
  • Prepare at least two lesson objective statements (for example: “learn to add fractions with different denominators”)
  • Prepare your note page heading with
    • Section and chapter number
    • Date
    • Title of topic(s)
  • Organize your notebook ( a 3-ring binder with pockets works best) by including a space for:
    • Notes
    • Homework
    • Handouts
    • Quizzes and tests

Choose the best seat for you

  • Select a seat that works best for you to concentrate
    • Visual learners tend to work best when seated near the front of the room closest to the teacher and board
    • Auditory learners tend to work best towards the rear of the room in the middle seats

Develop abbreviations

  • Use abbreviations for commonly used terms or items, such as: e.g. or ex for example; def for definition

Taking Notes

  • Leave space so that you can add additional information, steps, or page number references later (leave a gap at either the left or right column or skip several lines frequently
  • Write down all of the steps for problems shown on the board or overhead
  • Know when to take notes
    • Instructor writing on the board or overhead
    • When instructor pauses
    • When instructor repeats information
    • When instructor makes comments such as, “This can be difficult.” Or “This is where a lot of students make a mistake.”
    • When instructors mention that this material may be on the test
    • When instructors summarize

Revise your notes

A lot of memory loss occurs right after learning new material, so it is important to revise your notes as soon as possible after your class.  Auditory learners may want to use a recording device to help them add to and revise notes.  Visual learners will want to add color and other visual symbols to their notes.  Kinesthetic learners may benefit by entirely re-writing notes while making additions and corrections to them.

  • Fill in any gaps or missing steps
  • Add additional key words, definitions and formulas
  • Add additional examples of problems from the text (the main section or the homework)
  • Mark any areas of difficulty with a symbol for follow-up (a check mark or exclamation point) and any areas that are incomplete or you don’t understand (use a question mark).  Follow up on these areas with your study group, a tutor, or the instructor
  • Compare notes with your study group partners or another student in class that takes good notes
  • Use and refer to your notes often!

Utilize a note-taking system

There are several methods for taking notes. One method is a modified Cornell system that uses three columns. 

Prepare your note-taking papers

To set up for this method, take your notebook paper and do the following:

  • Draw two vertical lines that divide your note-taking space on the paper into 3 columns. The first column should be slightly narrower than the middle and last column.
  • Label the columns: Concept/Key terms, Examples, Explanation/Rules

Do this for at least ten more pieces of notebook paper to prepare for taking notes in class.

Using this system

  • Write down each definition of key term in the first column
  • Write down examples in the middle column
  • Describe the steps and reasons for the examples in the last column
  • Leave space to fill in more detail later or change abbreviated words to full length
  • Use your notes to review by covering up the middle and last column and try to describe the meaning of the concept/key terms in your own words. Cover up the steps and explanation for an example and see if you can work out the steps on your own.
  • Example of Example of Three-Column Note-Taking

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Adrienne Palmer

Math Learning Center Coordinator