By Sean Alexander

Whether you want to ace the SAT or just improve your math grade, memorizing formulas can help. Even in circumstances where you’ll be given the formulas you need, you’re usually better off memorizing them. For instance, the SAT will provide 12 formulas when you get to the math section. But if you know which SAT math formulas to memorize beforehand, you won’t have to waste time flipping (or scrolling in the case of the new digital SAT) back to look them up. On high-stakes standardized tests, every second counts, so you’ll save precious time and feel more prepared if you memorize formulas beforehand.

However, not all formulas are as simple as E=mc². The numbers, letters, and operands can get confusing — just look at the quadratic formula. We’ll go over some memory techniques that can make memorizing math formulas simpler.

The Importance of Knowing Your Learning Style To Master Math

Learning style refers to the way you understand and remember information. Although you can learn in many different ways, it can help to know which style you prefer and lean into it. The five primary types of learning styles include:

  • Visual: Visual learners process information best through eyesight. Effective study methods for students with a strong visual memory include books, charts, visuals, PowerPoint presentations, and timelines.
  • Auditory: Auditory learners prefer to learn through listening. If you're an auditory learner, you can easily remember information you've heard from lectures, podcasts, or audiobooks.
  • Kinesthetic: Kinesthetic learners process information best by doing hands-on activities. If you prefer using models, making crafts, or using flashcards to learn, you may be a kinesthetic learner.
  • Linguistic: Linguistic learners strongly prefer learning through reading and writing. If you are a linguistic learner, you probably do very well in a traditional classroom environment.
  • Logical: Logical learners remember and analyze information systematically. Logical learners typically do well in math and science classes.

6 Techniques To Memorize Math Formulas Fast

The following smart tricks can help you learn advanced math formulas and logarithms. However, before you jump into memorizing a list of formulas, make sure you understand them. When you have a deeper understanding of what a formula means, how it works, and how it was derived, it will be much easier to memorize. Don't limit yourself to just one technique. While knowing your preferred learning style can be useful, don't hesitate to use techniques from different learning styles to reinforce your efforts.

1. Create a Mental Image of the Formula

Visual images provide a fun, effective way to memorize complicated formulas. Here's a step-by-step breakdown of the learning process:

  • Break down the formula: Identify all of the separate constants, variables, and operations in the formula you want to learn.
  • Assign visual symbols: Give each component of the formula a concrete visual element. For example, if you were trying to learn E=mc2, you could imagine E as an elephant, m as a mountain, and c2 as two cars racing at the speed of light.
  • Create a storyline: Write a vivid storyline that incorporates all of these elements. In the example of E=mc2, imagine a huge balance scale with an enormous elephant on one side and a mountain (m) with two race cars (c2) zooming around it at the speed of light on the other side.

The more outrageous your story and visual clues are, the better. It'll be easier to remember math formulas if you use something unique. As in everyday life, mundane events are easy to forget. Repeat the story and practice converting the formula from the story to its original form. Mental images are one of the most effective ways to learn how to memorize math formulas quickly.

2. Use a Mnemonic Device

A mnemonic device is any technique that can help you remember. In many cases, mnemonic devices rely on silly sentences that start with the letter of what you want to remember. For example, the sentence, "Some Officers Have Curly Auburn Hair Til Old Age" can help you remember Sine = Opposite Over Hypotenuse; Cosine = Adjacent Over Hypotenuse; Tangent = Opposite Over Adjacent.

To create your own sentence, take the first letter of each element in the formula and use it to represent a word in your sentence.

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3. Test Yourself With Flashcards

Flashcards may seem old-fashioned, but they're very effective for memorizing formulas. You can either use paper flashcards or a flashcard app like Anki.

To create formula cards, write the name of the formula on one side and the formula on the other. Try to recall the formula and flip your formula flashcards over to check if you're correct.

You can also create more detailed flashcards using Anki and review them on your phone or in the web app. One of the benefits of Anki is the spaced repetition features. Anki will automatically show you the flashcards more often in the beginning and space them out more as you advance.

4. Write the Mathematical Formulas Down Repeatedly

If you're a kinesthetic learner, a simple trick you can try is writing the formulas over and over. You can do it anytime you have a few extra minutes and a piece of paper. As soon as you get to class, spend a few minutes writing formulas until class starts. You'll be surprised how much you can learn in small bits of time.

5. Practice Using the Formulas

Knowing the formulas is pointless if you don't know how to use them. Make sure you find plenty of practice questions using the formulas in problems. Look for problem sets similar to the ones you'll see in real-life situations. If you're working through a list of math formulas to memorize for the SAT, take some practice tests so you can get used to using them.

6. Sing or Recite the Formulas Aloud

Many people have a hard time remembering an entire poem but find it much easier when the poem is set to music in the form of a song. The same is true of learning formulas. You can find a lot of songs on YouTube for common formulas, or you can make up your own.

Even if you're not musical, you can benefit from reciting your basic math formulas out loud. This approach works especially well for auditory and linguistic learners.

Custom-Build Memorization Techniques With Expert Math Tutors

If you're not sure which ACT math formulas to memorize, the expert tutors at Alexander Tutoring can help. Our tutors can show you how to memorize formulas and identify the most useful ones so you'll be prepared to crush your test. Contact us today to learn more.


  • Sean Alexander

    COMMAND PILOT, OWNER Sean has been a professional educator for 15 years and has taught math, physics, and astronomy at all levels.  His experience ranges from working at a high school for severe learning differences to teaching advanced physics at Stanford.  After completing his graduate work in theoretical physics Sean founded Alexander Tutoring, with the mission of revealing the deep connections between math and nature to as many students as possible. 

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