How to Create Effective Math Videos

I have found that creating video versions of my notes and additional examples have been very helpful, especially for distance learning students. It is one thing to read content from notes, but to hear that same content adds a lot! Simply recording a lecture isn’t always the best – it is difficult to see content clearly and you have no recourse if a boo-boo is made. Rather, I like to create videos that focus only on the problem or concept, with my own voice narrating, inserting additional notes and graphics as needed, such as the video shown here. This involves live computer screen recording and the ability to combine and edit portions of the recordings. The procedure below describes how I do this.

How To Create Your Own Math Video
To create videos like this you will need a word processor like Word or Open Office, a simple art program or Word Equation Editor to create equation graphics, Photoscape (free), a computer mic (the Samson Go Mic is great and affordable), and a video editing program like Camtasia (or the equivalent) that allows you to produce and edit videos that may be published to your own server and web folder and/or some video site like YouTube. Cam Studio (free) might work for you but I have not tried it. You will want a program that will record a live screen of a portion of your desktop and allow you to paste into a timeline that you may edit. Here is what I do to create math videos:

  1. I either take screen shots of existing notes or screen shots of new problems I create using Word and various graphics programs (MS Paint works well).  Use Ctrl and PrtScr keys to take a screen shot, or use whatever other program you have.
  2. Open up a file in the free program PhotoScape. If you don’t have this program, get it! It is free, takes up virtually none of your computer memory, and takes virtually no time to learn how to use.  Download at
  3. Open up any file you have in Photoscape Editor. Then paste your screen shot over the top. You need to have a file (any file) open to do this.
  4. Crop your screenshot down as needed.
  5. Open Camtasia (or whatever video editing program you are using). Start a new project. Choose to record a region of the screen. In my case, I use my Photoscape pasted screenshot as my recording area.
  6. Make sure your mic is working. Also, choose the shaded box Object of Photoscape with any light color (like yellow or green) and opacity set to a minimum – this gives you an easy-peasy highlighting tool! See the image below for these settings.
  7. Start your recording. Pause when you want to add text to your video. Note you may paste other objects into your video as well by choosing to “paste a clipboard photo” from the objects menu.
  8. When finished with a video segment, save it. Then paste it into your video timeline. Add more segments as needed for the lesson. Typically, I will use 2-4 video segments.
  9. You may edit out dead space or other unwanted audio in Camtasia, once you have all your segments in the timeline.  I assume you can do the same in a similar video editing program.
  10. When finished, I generally save my complete video as a Quicktime Movie – this seems best for larger files and will work on just about any computer that has the free Quicktime program. To do this in Camtasia, you choose “Produce video as . . .”. After you have the video produced as a Quicktime movie on your computer, you may upload to your server and/or some video site like YouTube. Note that a saved video file in Quicktime will have an extension of .mov

Typically, it will take 1-3 hours to produce and publish a math video as described above, assuming I already have much or all of my own content that I will copy and paste.

Math Motivation – 4 Years Later

It has now been 4 1/2 years since I first used the methods initially proposed on my site at . Here is a summary of how I would run my class:

  • In the first 5 minutes, I would present an example of how mathematics at the precalculus level (or beyond) was used in some valuable manner in society. Ideally, the example would apply to the topic we were covering, but it was not required. For example, I might discuss the coding formula when introducing functions and then revisit this same page and discuss the way messages are decoded when we cover inverse functions. Or, I might discuss Albert Einstein’s statement concerning math and nature.
  • We would do a traditional lecture with perhaps fewer examples since more examples would follow in group work.
  • We would do group work with randomly presented students to present solutions. The group with the most presented solutions was awarded up to 2 points extra credit (to each member) at the end of the week. Of course, the member would not get extra credit if they were absent.
  • Group work problems focused on “Justification”, especially early in the course. So for example if we were solving an equation, each use of the Distributive Property, the Addition Property of Equality, etc. had to be documented.
  • Each group member was awarded up to 3 points (out of 3) per group session simply for participation.
  • For most topics, there was an extra credit “Bonus Question”, as may be seen on the Lessons Page, linked in red. Most of these questions were in video format. The first group to get a correct response earned 1 pt extra credit for each member of the group present. If a group member answered incorrectly, the entire group was then disqualified from answering again. This aspect was created to achieve a “game” atmosphere – and it did just that, creating a bit more excitement than plain old lecture.

Some Difficulties in the Group Work


Early on, I found it very difficult to keep all students on task in the group work if a single member could hand in the work. So, I insisted that each member do a write-up and hand in the write-up.


Having a student present solutions has its drawbacks. Often, the student might skip steps. So I would have to add notes to what they had written down. And sometimes, this would lead to a bit of confusion.


Awarding the points to group that presented the most solutions would sometimes result in a single group always presenting because they had a member that quickly derived solutions. This “quick on the draw” group member was often taking the course as a review. On the other hand, struggling students would feel frustrated that solutions seemed to be “so easy” to come by for the more advanced students. Some students would not even try to do the problem but instead would wait for the solution to be posted and then copy them down.


Modifications Made

  • As mentioned, each student was required to hand in a copy of group work.
  • Instead of group members presenting solutions, I now have all group members do problems in a step-by-step manner. I move around the room and help students and they also help each other.
  • Instead of the 2 points per week for most presentations, I have the entire class a 1 pt extra credit problem at the end of each group session. These are done independently. Students are thus rewarded for learning what was covered in group work problems.

Some Things That I Believe Worked & Kept

  • Starting the class with the 5 minute examples is something that has a lot of value. Many students have commented how these examples motivated them in math. On some days, however, it makes more sense to present these examples at the beginning of group work. For example, on a day of a quiz, I would not present the example before the quiz, but rather after.
  • Stressing justification is a good idea in the first half of the course when we review basics or when covering certain topics later on. For example, later on in the course we would want to cite all the different laws regarding logarithms when we solve and equation containing logs.
  • The Bonus Problems are something I believe that helps liven up the class. I have kept these.
  • I still award 3 out of 3 points for group work handed in. This is almost like extra credit since I always award 3 out of 3 provided the problems are all done. And the other extra credit could result in a total of about 30 points (although typically a student will only get 10 or 15 pts at the most). To balance out a “grade inflation” effect I give weekly assignments from the text worth 3 pts each, quizzes (closed book) worth 12 pts each, and tests worth a total of 400 pts. Also, if a student misses group work, they receive 0 out of 3 with virtually no exceptions. In addition, I deduct (late) points for late quizzes, homework, and tests.