Math Study Skills – Note Cards (Part 2)

August 31, 2010 at 9:38 am 4 comments

Last week I started a series on using note cards in a math class. That blog focused on using note cards to learn the first step for solving certain types of problems. Today I move on to discuss some other uses for note cards.


Note cards are a great way to memorize definitions for important vocabulary terms. You can write the term on the front of the card and the definition on the back. For example, “difference” on the front and “result when subtracting” on the back. As you cycle through the cards, look at the term and try to recite the definition. You can also work backwards, look at the definition and try to name the term. For any cards you struggle with, add those to a high frequency pile and look them over more often.

Translation from English to Math

Many students struggle with word problems because they do not know how to translate English phrases into expressions or equations. Note cards with English phrases on the front and their mathematical translation on the back will help you to learn how to make the translations. For example, you could put “seven less than twelve” on the front of a card and “12 – 7” on the back, or “three more than twice a number” on the front of a card and “2n + 3″ on the back. Cycling through these cards, and having them handy while working on homework, will help you to become an expert translator.

Difficult Problems

If there is a certain type of problem that you find to be difficult, write an example of the problem on the front and the solution on the back. You can use a card like this to quiz yourself – look at the problem and try it yourself, then compare your solution to the solution on the back of the card.

For some problems that require several steps you can write one step of the solution on its own note card. This allows you to check your work one step at a time. You can also scramble the cards and see if you can put the steps in the correct order.

Warning Cards

If there is a mistake that you typically make, or an important fact about a problem that you often forget, a series of “warning cards” can help you with this. For example, if you are solving rational equations, a note card reminding you to always check your solution is a good idea.


Next Tuesday I will finish my blog series on the uses of note cards.

If you have any pointers on using note cards, or any questions related to using note cards in math, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please share by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site –


I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website –


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