How To Read A Textbook

You might be thinking this post is superfluous.  What's so hard about reading a textbook?  Turns out it's more difficult than it looks.  Flip open any math, history, science textbook these days, and you might feel like you've opened up a circus tent.  Tons of colors.  Every other word is bolded, underlined, or italicized.  Almost every page has a callout box.  Pictures are strewn all over the place, sometimes they are even placed in page corners to supposedly "guide" you through the the chapters.  On top of all that, there are special "sections" in each chapter to distract you.  "Come read this real-life story of how Newton was napping under a tree when an apple fell on him!"  Admit it, it's hard to find information in a textbook.  Short of installing the Google search engine into your textbook, you're left blinded by all the flashing lights.

Here's a quick guide on how to get the most out of your textbook:

  1. Look at all the pictures first.  Yes, more than 60% of humans are visual learners. 
  2. Read carefully anything that's in a box or callout.  There's probably a reason why the authors or editors went to the trouble of drawing a box around it.
  3. Work through any example problems before you read the whole chapter.  This is a great opportunity for you to do some thinking with a safety net.  Since it's an example problem, you can quickly check your work with that shown in the book.
  4. Last step: read through the section.  Every single word, if you really want to.