How to take lecture notes in maths or physics (Paul Halmos way)

How to take lecture notes (Paul Halmos way)

Assume: Math/Physics esp.

Assume: the lecturer is not dictating notes; but of course, he is writing as well as talking as well as thinking!!!

Lecture notes are a standard way to learn something — one of the worst ways. Too passive, that’s the trouble. Standard recommendation: take notes. Counter-argument: yes, to be sure, taking notes is an activity, and, if you do it, you have something solid to refer back to afterward, but you are likely to miss the delicate details of the presentation as well as the big picture, the Gestalt — you are too busy scribbling to pay attention. Counter counter argument: if you don’t take notes, you won’t remember what happened, in what order it came, and, chances are your attention will flag part of the time, you’ll daydream, and, who knows, you might even nod off.

It’s all true, the arguments both for and against taking notes. My own solution is a compromise: I take very skimpy notes, and then, whenever possible, I transcribe them, in much greater detail, as soon afterward as possible. By very skimpy notes, I mean something like one or two words a minute, plus, possibly a crucial formula or two — just enough to fix the order of events, and, incidentally to keep me awake and on my toes. By transcribe I mean in enough detail to show a friend who wasn’t there, with some hope that he’ll understand what he missed.

Note that if the lecturer draws some pictures (with notations or otherwise), I draw *all* pictures in my notebook.


Hope this is of use to serious students, enthusiastic students, and *amateur* mathematicians (like me!!! :- ))

More later,

Nalin Pithwa


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