Seven Tips on How to Get the Most Out of a Math Lecture

Lectures might not be the most exciting thing to sit through (well unless you are in MY class, yeah couldn’t resist saying it, of course I do more than lecture but lets get back on track…) but let’s face it: most math classes are strictly lecture oriented. Therefore, if your plan is to do well, you MUST figure out the way to get information this way even if your learning style is a little different.


Hmmm…This may look awesome, but if your notes look like this you could have a little trouble following them.


  • Try to look at the book beforehand – I know that in reality, it is hard to find the time to look at things before class. You don’t have to read and understand the whole chapter though! Here, a quick read through to make mental notes about anything that seems particularly confusing can help you focus on those things during the lecture (and will help you ask better questions as well)
  • Don’t write down EVERYTHING! – Definitions are in your book as well as proofs and “rules”. Instead of writing them down again, use the time in class to really try and understand them and ask questions. If they’re raelly confusing, make yourself a quick note to go and research it more.
  • Focus on examples and the “why” – Hopefully your teacher or professor does some examples in class that are different from the text. These are studying GOLD. Every worked problem you have in your hands is a problem you can practice later on your own (with a full solution to see what you got wrong if you mess it up). This is where you should be writing the most careful notes. Also pay close attention to the “why”. Why do you use this method and when. This can be tough to follow in a math book so its worth writing down pointers for yourself.
  • If you think you are “getting it” then test yourself – Suppose the professor is doing two examples and you really “got” the first one. Ok, try to solve the second one before he does! This way you can see if you really are understanding things and if you get stuck, you are in the perfect position to ask a good question.
  • Try using different color pens or pencils – I know this sounds crazy, but I even do this when I use the board in my classes. It is so much easier to read notes (or the board) when the problems are black, the solutions are blue, and confusing parts or things you want to ask questions are in red.
  • Rewrite your notes as part of studying – Now if you write slow, my previous tip may not work for you. But you could take your notes like normal and then rewrite them later in this color coded format. In fact this would be a really nice way to catch anything confusing and help solidify the information in your head. I had a friend in grad school that rewrote all her notes as part of studying and it worked wonderfully for her!
  • Please ask questions. PLEASE! – The professor really wants you to ask a question. Seriously. Questions help us transition into new ideas and see how well our students are understanding things. The rest of the class wants you to ask a question (well except for that guy in the back who doesn’t care and wants out early, but he shouldn’t be there anyway). They are nervous and probably have the same question its just that someone needs to break the ice. I know everyone says it all the time but its true, so ask questions already!

I’m sure there are tons more tips out there so what are yours? What have you done in math classes that has helped you? Or if you teach, what do you wish your students would do?