How to read a mathematics textbook

David R. MacIver:

Miikka asked me how I read a maths textbook the other day, and I didn’t have a better answer than “badly”. I’ve mostly tried to read textbooks linearly cover to cover, and this doesn’t actually work – I sometimes end up understanding the material, but it’s usually not until long after I’ve finished or given up on the book.

After some thought and experimentation, I think I now have a better answer that helps integrate understanding and reading immediately. It’s very much a work in progress, and I’m sure I will refine the process over time, but initial experience with it seems promising.

It’s designed along a couple of important principles:

The goal is not, in fact, to read the textbook. The goal is to understand the material the textbook covers, and reading it helps you achieve that.