This post originally appeared on the blog Math Giraffe.

When students are able to blend text/auditory input together with images, they boost the potential for retaining information!As I dive deeper into the amazing world of visual note-taking, I become more and more hooked on the benefits of doodle notes

It’s seriously mind-boggling to see how this strategy is impacting the students! I just continue to be more and more impressed with how well these brain benefits really are coming true!

I’ve posted before about the research behind the cross-lateral connections between the two hemispheres of the brain.

When we can activate both the right (artsy) hemisphere of the brain and the left (logical) side of the brain at the same time, the two hemispheres communicate across the corpus callosum.

Any time this happens, the brain is better able to remember the lesson material and focus in on the concepts.

This in itself is enough to convince me to stick with the visual note-taking, but as I’ve been digging deeper into more and more research to explain the incredible boost in student learning after using the doodle note strategy, I’ve come across more and more reasons that are probably behind this success for the kids.

The psychological research I’ve been exploring lately is called “Dual Coding Theory.” It originated with Paivio in the 70s, and explains how visual and linguistic information is processed in two different areas of the brain.

In essence, as new input enters the brain, it’s stored in short term memory in two distinct categories. Graphic information, images, and other sensory input are processed in the VISUAL center while auditory input, words, and text are processed in the LINGUISTIC center of the brain.

This is a great way for our brain to take in both types of information, and the system works very well. However, in order to convert the new information into true learning, we need it to be saved and stored in long term memory.

To do this, we need referential connections between the two zones. We have to CONNECT the information in the visual area with the information in the linguistic area.

When we are able to blend the text/auditory input together with the images, we boost the potential for retaining the information!

This means that not only are the individual words and ideas committed to long term memory more effectively, but the associations between them are retained as well. Our students can understand the big ideas and concepts AND remember the vocabulary and details more consistently.  

It’s another huge reason that the student brain responds so well to a visual note-taking strategy!

When students are able to blend text/auditory input together with images, they boost the potential for retaining information!

A related theory, the “Picture Superiority Effect” is supported by studies showing that blending images with text offers a stronger learning experience than using text alone. It turns out that this boosts both the memory of the individual terms and ideas as well as the associations and connections between the concepts.

This is why we use certain visual brain triggers in addition to using text. For example, a stop sign has to instantly register an idea in our brains: STOP. So, in combination with the word (text input), we also always see the same shape (graphic input) as well as the color red (additional visual input).  These blend together to send the right signal to our brains more effectively.

When students are able to blend text/auditory input together with images, they boost the potential for retaining information!


A good visual note-taking strategy incorporates what I like to call “visual memory triggers.” These can be images that contain or represent an analogy that helps the student understand. They can also be graphics that blend text and pictures to stick in the students’ brains.

These are the types of input that really last in a student’s long-term memory.  ​

When students are able to blend text/auditory input together with images, they boost the potential for retaining information! 

For example, students remember the term “surface area” being written in the handle and bristles of a paintbrush and remember that it represents covering the outside of a sharpe (like painting). Check out more samples of visual triggers that can be incorporated into doodle notes here. To learn more about doodle notes, the research behind them, and how to try this strategy to boost your own students’ focus and retention, check out these links:

More about the doodle note strategy:

My video explaining Dual Coding Theory:

Dual Coding Theory vs. “Learning Styles”:
(Guess which is valid and which may be a myth!) 

Check out these related posts:


Math GiraffeBrigid has taught a range of middle and high school math courses, but her real passion is Geometry! She loves to teach proofs, and enjoys blending fun and rigor into math class. Discover creative and unique strategies for teaching by stopping by her blog. Or visit her on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, or at her TpT store Math Giraffe.