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How To Enter Equations Quickly In Class?

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the napkins-and-a-digital-camera dept.

Input Devices 823

AdmiralXyz writes "I'm a university student, and I like to take notes on my (non-tablet) computer whenever possible, so it's easier to sort, categorize, and search through them later. Trouble is, I'm going into higher and higher math classes, and typing "f_X(x) = integral(-infinity, infinity, f(x,y) dy)" just isn't cutting it anymore: I need a way to get real-looking equations into my notes. I'm not particular about the details, the only requirement is that I need to keep up with the lecture, so it has to be fast, fast, fast. Straight LaTeX is way too slow, and Microsoft's Equation Editor isn't even worth mentioning. The platform is not a concern (I'm on a MacBook Pro and can run either Windows or Ubuntu in a virtual box if need be), but the less of a hit to battery life, the better. I've looked at several dedicated equation editing programs, but none of them, or their reviews, make any mention of speed. I've even thought about investing in a low-end Wacom tablet (does anyone know if there are ultra-cheap graphics tablets designed for non-artists?), but I figured I'd see if anyone at Slashdot has a better solution."

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LyX (4, Informative)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915847)

I used LyX quite a bit; the equation editor is pretty quick to work with (better than MS Equation Editor or similar addons).

LyX is generally much faster than straight LaTeX - and there's a much shallower learning curve.

Additionally, LyX works on pretty much whatever platform you want to use.

Re:LyX (-1, Offtopic)

igb (28052) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916003)

there's a much shallower learning curve.

I get really annoyed by people getting this the wrong way around. If something's easy to learn, it has a steep learning curve: your ability rises rapidly over time, repetition or whatever your measure of effort is. If something is difficult, it has a shallow learning curve: your ability increases slowly against time, repetition or whatever. Yes, I know ``steep learning curve'' sounds all difficult and stuff, but you'd expect that Slashdot readers would at least think about that particular metaphor a little more carefully.

Re:LyX (5, Informative)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916071)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_curve#Common_terms [wikipedia.org]

      You'd think that people would learn that language isn't always sensical, and that terms may have multiple --- even mutually contradictory --- meanings. Hope that's not too inflammatory a hope.

Re:LyX (4, Insightful)

Steve Franklin (142698) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916183)

Yes, indeed. Actually, it makes perfect sense. "Steep" is a metaphor based on climbing a hill, where the steeper it is the harder it is to get to the top. Does this really escape some folks?

Re:LyX (4, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916319)

Even though we both have similar concepts of what the learning curve is referring to, I think the GP's interpretation is backwards, at least from a user interface design perspective. If the learning curve is steep, that means you learn a lot at the very beginning, which means that you have to learn a lot just to get started. Otherwise, you wouldn't have bothered to learn all that stuff up front. Thus, a steep learning curve means that the UI is relatively hard to learn, even if it doesn't take you a huge amount of time.

The ideal learning curve for software is actually fairly linear; the amount you learn at the beginning should be minimal because the UI should be discoverable enough and familiar enough (relative to other software) that you don't need to learn anything of substance to start using it at a basic level. As you get into it more, you should continue to discover things that make your life easier.

Just my $0.02.

Re:LyX (1)

BradleyAndersen (1195415) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916323)

Yes, well then what place would pedantic pricks have in our society, if not to sit around on their perches proclaiming others inferior, using their amazing and great wit?

Re:LyX (2, Insightful)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916147)

'Steep learning curve' goes both ways.

I'm more familiar with it being used in the sense as it refers to the curve you have to climb, hence a 'steep' learning curve has you start on ground level and then climb the face of El Capitan to get to the top. Wiki says it started your way, but current usage is more often the way I see it.

Maybe we should just drop the saying all together and stick with "easy to learn" and "complex to learn"?

Re:LyX (3, Funny)

thethibs (882667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916211)

That's all right. They also think that a "quantum leap" is really big.

Re:LyX (5, Funny)

friedo (112163) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916343)

It took me lightyears to explain that to someone.

Re:LyX (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916239)

Steep refers to the ability to be productive vs. time. If you can't be productive until your good, something like piloting a helicopter, the learning curve is steep. There is a point when your productivity makes a large jump. A shallow learning curve is something like python: productivity grows with knowledge. You never have a large jump.

Re:LyX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916279)

I get really annoyed by people who don't know the difference between a metaphor and an analogy.

Re:LyX (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916283)

I get really annoyed by people getting this the wrong way around.

And I get really annoyed by people who think language should work the precise way they feel it should work and no other.

A "learning curve" is conceptualized, not as a graph of knowledge versus time, but as a graph of knowledge versus *effort*.

So if something is difficult, to learn a little you have to put in a lot of effort. Result? Steep learning curve.

Re:LyX (1)

neonv (803374) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916325)

You're plotting you're learning curve differently then other people. Most people think of this as the amount learned per task. The number of tasks is the x-axis, the amount of information required to learn the task is the y axis. For each task, a certain amount of information is required to complete the task. A person must learn that information to be able to complete that task. For easy tasks, the information required is low, hence the slope of the curve is low. For difficult tasks, the information required is high, but still only one task, hence the slope is steep. A steep learning curve means the task requires a large amount of learning which is the reason most people say steep learning curve.

I believe you're using the x-axis as time, which isn't how people usually think of it.

Flip your axis (1)

TheNinjaroach (878876) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916371)

I think you've got your X and Y axis flipped. To me (and many others [wikipedia.org] ) a steep learning curve implies that the more you want to accomplish (x), the more time (y) you have to put into learning.

Re:LyX (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916039)

LyX is really cool, I also recommend it for this kind of task.

What MACROS are for (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916061)

Create keyboard macros for all your math stuff.

CONTROL + SHIFT + F would be
  f() [LEFT ARROW to put your cursor between the parenthesis]

You're in college, so I'm sure you can figure it out...

Re:LyX (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916105)

Claim you have a disability and get the university to pay someone to write all of your notes.

What's old is new (4, Informative)

404 Clue Not Found (763556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915863)

Wacom's low-end Bamboo Pen [wacom.com] ($69) tablet should be more than you need. Amazon has it for $60. [amazon.com] Combine it with Microsoft OneNote or similar and you'll have recreated the fabulous 2-buck pen-and-paper experience. Go you!

pencil/paper (5, Informative)

jschen (1249578) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915865)

Pencil/paper and digitizing later should be fine.

Re:pencil/paper (4, Informative)

Reeses (5069) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915891)

Pen and paper got me through my math classes in school. Then I'd transcribe the equations later into digital form.

Re:pencil/paper (5, Insightful)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915941)

Pencil/paper and transcription. That way the knowlage is refreshed after the lecture and you hve a better chance of correcting what you took down if it was initially taken down in error because the content is fresh in your mind.

Re:pencil/paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916023)

I've been using the LiveScribe PulsePen - it works pretty well, but it won't do a good job of translating your scribbles to text. It has some text search. But the cool thing is it records your professor's voice and syncs it with your notes. Check it out http://www.livescribe.com/

Re:pencil/paper (1)

ITRambo (1467509) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916091)

..and paper never crashes or needs to be recharged.

Re:pencil/paper (1)

Viridae (1472035) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916229)

Needs refreshing occasionally though.

Re:pencil/paper (4, Informative)

ocean_soul (1019086) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916099)

I agree. You should not be taking notes on the computer. It's much better to do it on paper and, if you really need it, digitize them later. This coming from a former mathematical physics student, now teaching mathematical physics. So I do have (a lot of) experience with it.

Where "digitising" is taking a photo on your phone (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916137)

Or webcam.


Re:pencil/paper (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916169)

I have been an engineer for 30 years and have tried over and over to take digital notes. I have never found an efficient solution. You're right - equations and drawings / sketches make digital note-taking a mess. OCR technology pukes on my handwriting.

Here is the work flow that I have used for the last 5 years, or so:

1. Handwritten notes in black pen.
2. Scan according to your preference (200 dpi grayscale for me). Save as tiff.
3. Import into Paperport.
4. Use Paperport's annotation function to add searchable text boxes.

It sux, but I have about 2,500 pages of notes that I can search by my added keywords, and can back up in case of catastrophe.

I continuously try to improve this workflow, and Paperport's ability to search on text boxes is unique. Most software needs/wants to OCR and and make a linked text file in order to search.

Re:pencil/paper (3, Informative)

budhaboy (717823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916277)

totally agree. The best editing software for equations I've ever seen is latex, and I suspect it's still too slow for taking notes in class. There used to be these crazy pens that could capture notes (and doodles) to image files... But it'd probrably be easier just to scan them later, as it'd give you a chance to review them anyway.

Old school (4, Insightful)

Darth Maul (19860) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915883)

Keep it simple - pen and paper.

Re:Old school (1)

Fry-kun (619632) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915987)


I've tried it all and pen&paper is the best choice.

Re:Old school (3, Insightful)

BigHungryJoe (737554) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916063)

aren't math people supposed to use pencil?

Re:Old school (5, Funny)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916139)

aren't math people supposed to use pencil?

Only if you're one of those people who make mistakes. Obviously no one on /. would fit in this category.

Re:Old school (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916237)

aren't math people supposed to use pencil?

Not the good ones. It is akin to doing the Sunday Times crossword in ink...quiet statement of superiority.

Use Paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915885)

There is this ancient technology called "paper" which may suit your purpose.

Once you get into higher math, you'll start using more and more symbols that require correct layout in order to display correctly. There are also these things called "graphs" and "diagrams" which are very hard to type, but rather easy to draw.

Writing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915893)

How about taking notes with pen and paper and then transcribing to your laptop later? Ok it doesn't directly answer your needs but I always found I remembered things a lot better if I took notes the old fashioned way before putting them on the computer.

paint (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915897)

microsoft paint

Tex Faster (1)

BrokenSegue (895288) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915917)

Seriously. It's not that hard. Practice.

Pen and Paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915919)

Take notes by hand in these formula rich lectures, and enter them into the computer when you review your notes.

LyX (1)

SashaM (520334) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915925)

LyX [lyx.org]

With some practice (and appropriate shortcuts), you can enter formulas faster than you can write them down with a pen.

Re:LyX (2, Informative)

BetterSense (1398915) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916311)

I'm a graduate student in physics and my friend started using started using LyX to do class notes and even homework. I've used it too and still do for very math-heavy homework and so on. It's very readable compared to handwriting, you can cut and paste, and it's not significantly slower. I still do a lot of analysis on paper with a good fountain pen, but I always have to rewrite a final, legible version anyway, and LyX is very easy and my professors love it.

Touchpad (1)

abigor (540274) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915927)

Apparently as of Snow Leopard, the touchpad can now do handwriting recognition. So you may already have all the tools you need with your MacBook. I've never tried this particular functionality, though it sounds cool.

Re:Touchpad (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916125)

apparently that's for Chinese only....

Windows 7 (3, Informative)

thefogger (455551) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915929)

If you do choose to invest in a Wacom tablet, Windows 7 comes with a math input panel:


It's not very usable with a mouse, though.

Pen and Paper (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915931)

Meets your criteria:
  • Cheap
  • Doesn't take up much space
  • Excellent battery life
  • Expandable

If you really want to get fancy you could write with erasable ink or (gasp) a pencil in case you make mistakes in your notes.

Then invest a little money in a scanner with a sheet feeder so you can digitize your notes quickly after every lecture.

this guy will be a virgin forever (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915943)

there's no way this guy is having sex. ever.

Old School (1)

jimktrains (838227) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915949)

Pencil and paper. I had this issue in both my math and chemistry classes. It was defiantly worth it to just do it on paper and then translate them into teX later.

Analog (2, Informative)

Pete Venkman (1659965) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915951)

I encountered this problem too during my last year and a half in uni, so I used a low-tech solution. When I needed to put an equation in my notes, I would type "See EQ. 1-1" and fill up a piece of paper with equations. Later on (that day or the next), while reviewing my notes I would look up the eq on my sheet and type it into my notes the correct way.

Windows 7 now has a math input panel (3, Informative)

jsac (71558) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915957)

Windows 7 now features a math input panel, which converts handwritten mathematics to MathML. You can see screenshots at this link: http://www.gottabemobile.com/2008/10/29/windows-7-math-input-panel-screenshots [gottabemobile.com]

Re:Windows 7 now has a math input panel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916191)

Something tells me that if its failing on high school level algebra equations, its certainly not going to do well with advanced mathematics.

Re:Windows 7 now has a math input panel (1)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916289)

Except the screenshots are all showing success. It's not failing.

Re:Windows 7 now has a math input panel (1)

Chryana (708485) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916209)

I was a math major not so long ago, and I used a tablet pc at the time... It worked fairly well, although I never digitized what I wrote down, and didn't really look into it either. I'm not sure you would get good results with a Wacom tablet though. I know another student in a class (computer, this time) I took tried that, and he could not even read what he wrote. So if you decide to try it, you may want to keep your receipt. Good luck.

Re:Windows 7 now has a math input panel (1)

budhaboy (717823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916315)

oh my. handwriting recognition of math formulae on a windows 7 platform running on a ibook pro... Can't imagine any problems there...

OpenOffice works (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915959)

The OpenOffice equation editor is just typing markup text; it's a steep learning curve, but once I got the hang of it I could keep up with any prof.

t3hfr3ak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915961)

There is one on TigerDirect that is called Adesso CyberPad. Anything you write on in is saved into its internal memory for transfer to PC later on. check it out

Mathematica (2, Informative)

raybob (203381) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915965)

http://www.wolfram.com/products/ [wolfram.com]

is a lot of fun to play with, does computation & all kinds of neat tricks in addition to typesetting.

$139 for the student version, available for the Mac.

Paper (1)

Carik (205890) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915969)

Why not use a paper notebook in class, and just enter the equations into the computer later?

If you absolutely insist on a technical solution, how about:

- using macros. Use something like OO.o's auto expand feature (whatever they call it), so that when you type exp-1 it translates to ^-1, or intl expands to integral.

- using shorthand. Find a set of shorthand layouts that work for you, then run search and replace later to make them what they're actually supposed to be. The same examples as above work -- just without the macros.

To be honest, though, you're probably best off either using pencil and paper or just improving your typing speed.

Amazing new technology (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915971)

There's this amazing new technology that utilizes droplets of colored pigmentation that adhere via cohesion to sheets of a fibrous cellulose material. Ask your chemistry professor about it.

MapleSoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915975)

Try to use Maple vs 12 or higher. It parses the equations beautifully.


Latexit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29915977)

Try Latex it http://pierre.chachatelier.fr/programmation/latexit_en.php it's a great free program for making equations in latex on the mac

TeX to the rescue (5, Funny)

Florian Weimer (88405) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915981)

f_X(x) = integral(-infinity, infinity, f(x,y) dy)

Just type $$f_X(x) = \int_\infty^\infty f(x,y) dy$$ instead.

Re:TeX to the rescue (4, Funny)

melikamp (631205) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916307)

Say, you are doing probability and have to write a bunch of integrals over the real line. Then you can prepare this:



\newcommand{\intR}{\mathop{\int_{\mathbb R}}}

and later use

\[ \fX = \intii f(x,y)dy \]

Re:TeX to the rescue (1)

budhaboy (717823) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916345)

you forgot the minus sign on the lower bound.

Digital Camera? (1)

n1ckml007 (683046) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915989)

I sometimes take a digital camera (phone) picture of notes or operating hours.

Pen, paper, TeX. (2, Insightful)

zunger (17731) | more than 4 years ago | (#29915991)

I had this issue for years. Ultimately I never found anything within a factor of 5 for speed of simple pen and paper. The next best thing was LaTeX; with practice you can type that remarkably fast. (Especially if you pre-define macros relevant to whatever you're doing) The GUI-based solutions uniformly stank.

I've never found any system for digitizing handwritten equations; for a long time, my hope was that such software (preferably with LaTeX output) and a tablet would be a good solution. But the market for such things is small, and a few minutes of design work convinced me that implementing it was a lot more trouble than it would ever be worth.

One Option (1)

thePsychologist (1062886) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916013)

Pencil and paper.

Forget the computer for mathematics classes. You will never get as fast with any sort of computer technology as you will with paper. If you want to jot down a quick calculation, or more importantly, draw a diagram, paper and pencil are painless and easy, and as a result you'll spend more time focusing on what's really important: what the professor is saying and doing on the board.

I'm a math major just graduated and taking graduate courses in mathematics currently so I've had much experience here. I've tried to take notes with a computer. I am very quick with LaTeX. You can even define your own macros specific to what the professor is likely to write and even then I think a computer for taking notes in a math course is useless.

I remember using... (2, Informative)

CannedTurkey (920516) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916017)

... a product called MathCad 15 years ago. I seem to recall they had a free student version. Looks like they have a 30 day trial, and a $60 student version if it suits your purposes.

Kids... (1)

DJ Jones (997846) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916019)

Use a freaking pencil and paper man. It might be nice to be able to "sort" and "categorize" them for shits and giggles on the weekends but when you're taking a test I doubt you're going to be able to use a "search" system on your computer. Most professors don't require you to memorize giant formulas but they expect you to be able to recall the general uses of certain formulas from memory and be able to apply them out of context to solve larger problems. If you ever work in a mathematical field you will all also need this ability later in life, you might as well start building a "mental" search system now.

AMaya (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916025)

AMaya is the only one I've used. Doubt it would be fast enough for note taking though it outputs MathML so you can drop it straight in to HTML and a browser. It is open source so you can optimize it if you desire.

just need the software... (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916053)

You know, I already have a touch tablet on my notebook, as many others do too. The problem is that the software is programmed to make it act as a mouse (and I also always carry a small wireless mouse with my notebook). So the ideal solution would seem to be a piece of software that lets one use this touch sensitive surface for what it really is rather than forcing it to be a mouse. Has no one written and released such software?

openoffice math (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916065)

try openoffice math. I usually do not install this program since my users do not need it, but it seems to be what you want. If you are using windows I would try the version from go-oo.org.

I hope it helps

Have you tried MathType? (1)

shdragon (1797) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916067)

I work in the education industry. For all of our test & test prep materials, we use a program called MathType. It's quick, easy and supports advanced mathematical formulas.

http://www.dessci.com/en/products/mathtype/ [dessci.com]

Re:Have you tried MathType? (1)

sl3xd (111641) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916121)

I've always been unimpressed with MathType.

It's an upgrade vs. MS Equation Editor, but there's nothing it can do that you can't do more easily with LyX.

Harder to use + expensive doesn't do well compared to 'easier & free'

Windows 7 Tablet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916075)

I know you probably don't want to hear it, but Windows 7 has some nice equation recognition features for a tablet pc.


raw LaTeX is fine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916081)

I use LaTeX in vim, without any scripts. It takes a bit of practicing but I don't have to wonder where my cursor gets and why it jumps whereever it wants. That's quite annoying in Lyx sometimes. It's fast and predictive, I don't even have to check the result most times. I don't even look at the screen, I actually turn it off to save battery life sometimes.

And btw, drawing graphs while the teacher is drawing them on the board can be done with TikZ faster than drawing with a pencil once you learned all those coordinate systems that TikZ provides. I've done that for about a year now, the first months were hard, though.

Anyway, I'd suggest taking notes on paper and transcribing them later. That way you learn a more from your notes and you learn to take notes that are actually useful because you have to use them at least once.

Re:raw LaTeX is fine (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916337)

Straight LaTeX is awful for typesetting matrices (with member expressions, naturally). Lyx is a little more usable.

Livescribe Pulse pen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916085)

Get a Livescribe Pulse pen from Amazon or Target. The new 4GB pens are out, they hold hundreds of hours of class.

You have to use their notebook, but it records your handwriting and the lecture, keying the writing to the audio so you can review what was said with a tap of the pen or click of the mouse.

Sync to your pc or mac and you can get rid of the notebooks.

I have to say the hardware is much further along than the software, it feels more like a beta than a product, but it is worth the money. I wouldn't go to school without it.


(no affiliation, just a happy customer, will be happier as the software impoves though)

LyX? (2, Informative)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916087)

I don't know if it is up to the speed you need, but the equation editor in LyX is pretty darn cool.

http://www.lyx.org/ [lyx.org]


Two Possible Solutions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916089)

I can think of two ways to do this.

1) In LaTeX, it's possible to make your own commands that are much shorter than the built in commands. For instance, I personally use "/RR" instead of "/mathbb{R}". This could make it a lot faster, if you repeat the same symbols often.

2) If that doesn't speed it up enough, you could use place holders that you fill in later. Type everything you can, and use say "(A)", then "(B)", and so on, in place of equations and such, which you write down on a peice of paper, properly labelled. Then go back later and enter them in. This is really just a variant of everyone who says that pen and paper is the way to go.

Mac has built-in symbol font (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916107)

Well, since you're on a Mac, I'd suggest using Option-5 for infinity and option-b for integral (they don't show up when I hit preview). You can use the Keyboard Viewer to find all sorts of nifty option-? / option-shift-? combos to get you quite a few symbols.

Or, you could use pencil and paper (pen! in a math class! seriously!!!!) and your computer for other classes.

Pencil and paper (1)

idiot900 (166952) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916119)

You have evaluate what this is really worth to you. You can learn just fine with notes you hand-wrote. Will all the effort you'd put into making this electronic really mean you'll learn the material in less time? And you're not seriously going to bring a Wacom tablet to class, are you? You'll look ridiculous.

If you really must, scan and OCR your (neatly) hand-written notes. You'll get enough of the words to be able to search for the concept you need later.

Or, if you don't believe me, just learn TeX markup for equations, and don't worry about getting the syntax 100% right during class. Fix syntax errors and render your notes after class.

Take a picture, it'll last longer. (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916123)

Seriously, take a picture of the board/screen/whatever, and import the image in to your notes.

More seriously, right tool for the right job. Leave the expensive hardware at home and invest in a pad of paper and a pen.

Scientific Notebook (1)

DomNF15 (1529309) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916133)

I used this in college, albeit not while I was attending a lecture. Still, you should be able to click the various special formula buttons at least as fast as some prof is either talking through slides or writing them on a board. By the way, it is also a good tool for checking whether or not you solved an equation correctly. I've used it up to and including multivariate calculus, so it should take you quite a ways. My memory of matrix algebra is kind of fuzzy so don't remember how good it was there, but overall it should work for you.

Options (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916135)

Just wanted to add my two cents. (For what its worth, I'm a math professor.)

1. Pencil and paper + digitization

This is probably the fastest, but it does take paper and even after you digitize you may not be able to search your notes unless your handwriting is ocr compatible.

2. Tablet

I've seen a number of students take this approach. Its almost as fast as pen an paper (if not equally fast) and you dont have to scan. The nice tablets have built in character recognition so you can search your notes. On the other hand, you have to worry about battery life and whatnot.

3. Text editor

IMHO this just doesn't work. I type latex about as fast as anyone I know and I couldn't keep up with even a moderately paced lecture. I don't think picking a particular editor is going to help. It can't be that selecting \alpha from a toolbar is faster than typing it.

4. Magic

It would be really neat if there was some program out there that could scan equations (either taken from a digitized pen/paper job or a tablet) and turn them into latex. Its even possible that there is, although I've never heard of it. If so, and if it works, then this is clearly the best option, but it sounds like magic to me.

Don't use a computer in class (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916151)

If you want really good notes, the only practical way to do it is take fast sketchy notes with pen and paper in class, then type them up the same evening while you still remember the lecture, expanding the sketchy stuff into complete sentences and explanations, equations, and so forth.

PDA or you can have my Acer Travelmate C112 (1)

lkcl (517947) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916165)

Installed linux on it: i got an Acer C112 i'm not using, battery's stuffed but the keyboard is almost brand-new, replaced it only a couple of months before getting a new one :) ... but seriously, i'm not here to sell you my old laptop, but to recommend that you look up any 2nd hand smartphone or touchscreen PDA, and use the "drawing" program, simple as that.

you can then insert the images into your notes, afterwards. pay attention _do_ try to get a linux-based one: not only do my natural instincts abhor proprietary software but you may find it inconvenient to convert from proprietary PDA / Wince image formats into something you can actually use.

of course, when you've got a "real" job you can afford $1000+ on a decent tablet PC, but then you'll not be needing to take maths notes from lecturers :)

Feynman says (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916171)

how about using a better mathematical notation system...like Iverson's apl or j
you must admit math notation isn't the most succinct syntax out there.

when you memorize latter - put into a file/database etc....

Livescribe Pulse (1)

mtrachtenberg (67780) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916179)

Livescribe Pulse. I've never used it but the advertising makes it look like just what you want.

That's why I didn't do math (0)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916181)

Trouble is, I'm going into higher and higher math classes, and typing "f_X(x) = integral(-infinity, infinity, f(x,y) dy)" just isn't cutting it anymore: I need a way to get real-looking equations into my notes.

Teehee - math nerds.

That's why I liked biology:

      "I'm getting higher and higher in my biology classes. Writing notes to my good looking classmates just isn't cutting it anymore: I need a way to get into the pants of delicious looking women"...

Just do like me (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916205)

Don't take notes and save it all inside your brain.

Bamboo? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916219)

I think I did see some lower-end tablets out there, called Bamboo or some such. I want to say I saw them for $50 - $100 US, but don't quote me on that.

Pulse Smart Pen (1)

frankmu (68782) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916221)

livescribe.com sells the Pulse Smart Pen. It can also record the lecture while transcribing your handwriting. the best thing however, is to get last years notes, and bring it with you. then you can read along. professors usually have the same script year after year.

Alternate keymap/charset (1)

Zerth (26112) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916223)

If the set of symbols you need is less than the number of keys on your keyboard, set up an alternate keymap/charset, or a bunch of macros in the editer of your choice.

Tried Rapid Pi? (1)

uberjeep (1667223) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916227)

It's a plugin for Word. All of these things need practice, but you do get faster and you can use cut and paste if you're doing ODEs or whatever.

Sandbox (1)

similar_name (1164087) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916263)

I know some people think pencil and paper but that is just too high tech for my blood. I'd go with a good ol' sandbox.

Or you could go for an etch a sketch if you still want the cool high tech look.

I use Mathematica in class. (2, Informative)

VGVL (1557555) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916273)

I've been using Wolfram Mathematica to take class notes and exams for years. By using the keyboard shortcuts you can easily keep up with the class. You can also have instant interactive graphs which will be much easier to understand than anything a professor could draw on a board, although it's not like my professors write on the board as they use Mathematica or Matlab to teach the class as well. This is at a private university in Mexico.

KISS, just pen and paper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29916293)

What's wrong with pen and paper? Why make your life so hard. You still have to write your examination answers using pen and paper right? [ unless you have an online examination ]

Mac's Typography; in short: transcribe your notes (4, Interesting)

zentechno (800941) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916321)

Firstly, the Mac has an incredibly rich simple character set. This is NOT coincidental, as Apple copied their editing capabilities from the publishing industry decades ago. E.g. in TextEdit type alt-b and you'll see a '' integral symbol (looks correct as I type it, hopefully the post wont change it). If you can learn these keyboard shortcuts (learning-curve arguments aside), you *may* be able to type these directly into your mac in class, BUT... If you take notes by hand, then transcribe them into your mac using these short cuts, or simply via the Mac's Font (e.g. TextEdit --> commant-T) and characters (e.g. via the gear drop-down in the Font) pane, you're doing yourself a much bigger favor.

Perhaps (1)

Laser Lou (230648) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916329)

.. you should stick with typing text, as you have been. By translating those equations to text form, you may be helping yourself understand them better.

LaTeX (0)

patrickthbold (1351131) | more than 4 years ago | (#29916333)

Obviously pencil and paper is what everyone does, and for good reason. But if you really need your notes typeset and you don't have any time to do it after class, you should just use LaTeX. You can set up some macros for some commonly used things. You just need to be able to type fast an acurately. You said that LaTeX is too slow, but really you are just slow at typing in LaTeX. Practice and you should be able to get your speed up.
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