On this page: | Study Tips | How to Read Mathematics | How to Take a Math Test | Good Classroom Habits |

Study Tips

Keep Up Mathematics is different from other disciplines. You need to know yesterday's material to understand today's.

Quality Time This is about 2 hours at home for every hour in class. Time thinking counts. Time staring at the wall doesnít: get help! Your math sessions should be short and frequent. Donít save it all for one long night of cramming.

Cooperate Ask questions of your classmates, listen and respond to theirs. Form a study group. The more ways you look at something, the clearer it will become.

Get Interested For some folks this may sound hard. But an ounce of understanding is worth a pound of formulas. You only learn what you really want to learn.

Get Feedback Talk to me! In class and during office hours. Ask questions, answer questions, donít be afraid to guess. Correct quiz and test mistakes right away. Check homework answers after each session. Join a study group. Go to the Math Clinic.

Practice There are two very different skills involved:
1) Practice each technique we learn on homework problems.
2) Practice deciding which technique to use. Write one problem per index card and shuffle.

Make your own study guide. Making it yourself is half the benefit.
Categorize problems by the question asked and by the key words.
If you can't perfect all the techniques, be sure to excel at the ones you do know.

There are two kinds of test questions:
1) familiar problems similar to homework;
2) concept questions that ask you to put your knowledge and understanding together in a different way.
Memorization is not sufficient for concept questions — you must understand the material.

Test Yourself Before you take my test, take your own. Try to duplicate the test conditions as much as possible: quiet, time limit, no book.

Stay Healthy Eat and sleep wisely. Don't use alcohol or drugs. Your brain and body need a lot of TLC. Similarly your psyche — check out the College Happiness Guide.

The Academic Success Center can help you improve your study skills through assessment and seminars. Their web page has more information and materials for self help.

On this page: | Study Tips | How to Read Mathematics | How to Take a Math Test | Good Classroom Habits |

How to Read Mathematics

Find a comfortable time and place, not too much noise or distracting traffic, no deadlines weighing on your mind. Allow 45-90 minutes. Have plenty of paper and a pencil.

  1. Be an active reader. Take charge. The book will lead you, but wonít tell you everything. Ask yourself questions, fill in missing steps. Do the examples before the book does. Reading mathematics is slow.

  2. Summarize each section.

    1. Context.

      Is this the beginning of a chapter? What is the chapter topic? How does the section topic fit with the rest of the chapter?

      Is this section later in the chapter? Again, how does this topic fit, and how does it expand your view of the chapter topic?

      Does the new material look familiar? Might you confuse new techniques with earlier ones? Can you replace old techniques with new and easier ones?

    2. Key Words.

      Write your version of their meanings. Paraphrase, but use technical terms correctly.

    3. Facts.

      What theorems and formulas did the book state? Write and explain them in your own words. Do you need to memorize any of them?

  3. Do the homework exercises. Check your answers. Look at the examples for hints. How do the problems relate to the topic?

  4. Keep up and keep your work. If you learned to solve equations in chapter 1, the book will assume you can do this in chapter 2. The sentence, "Then we solve this equation for x and observe that ..." expects you to solve the equation without further help. The phrase, "Building on example 1.5 ..." expects you to look up this example and remember it.

On this page: | Study Tips | How to Read Mathematics | How to Take a Math Test | Good Classroom Habits |

How to Take a Math Test

  1. Maximize your score and calm yourself down by doing problems you know well first.

  2. Do not stay stuck on a problem too long. Move on, come back if you have the time.

  3. Pay more attention to problems worth more points.

  4. If you are confused about something, ask.

  5. Identify the context of each problem:

    1. Is the problem self-contained, or part c) of a larger problem with information given earlier?

    2. Can the variables be negative, or only nonnegative?

    3. Do you need to simplify or not?

  6. For full credit:

    1. Read the problem carefully. Language is important in math.

    2. Show your work.

    3. Write neatly and organize your work.

    4. Answer the question; read the problem one last time. Include units.

    5. Erase any failed attempts.

  7. For partial credit:

    1. Show your work; correct technique and a minor mistake can result in most of the credit.

    2. Explain what you would do if you had the time or the skills.

    3. Estimate answers (and say that you are doing so).

  8. Learn from the test:

    1. When it is returned to you, look it over, with the answers.

    2. Ask about answers you don't understand.

    3. Figure out what went wrong with this checklist.

Special Strategies for Oral Tests

Avoid Silence Silence implies ignorance. If you know or suspect an answer, say it right away. If you're thinking, think out loud. There are no penalties for wrong turns as you think; trying out different ideas is normal. It's what you eventually say you are satisfied with that counts.

Write Again, no penalty for initial missteps. Seeing, as opposed to imagining, can help you think. If you can't talk and write at the same time, alternate.

Big Ideas First Worrying over proper notation, or what you are "allowed" to know in this particular course, can distract you. If I want more precision or a different strategy, I will ask.

Simplify Always a good strategy for hard problems: take them in smaller steps. If you can't get a hard problem at all, mention a similar easier problem to show your knowledge.

Calm Down Prepare well: know the material and practice with a friend. If you're stuck on one problem, make a short list of pertinent results or definitions that might help. Ask for a hint, or to skip to another problem. Manage your overall stress; see Stay Healthy in the Study Tips above. Visit the Academic Success Center.

On this page: | Study Tips | How to Read Mathematics | How to Take a Math Test | Good Classroom Habits |

Good Classroom Habits

A good classroom student: A good classroom teacher:
knows the resources available knows the subject well
is enthusiastic is enthusiastic
is on time and prepared for meetings is on time and prepared for meetings
takes notes writes neatly, does not rush
is responsive to questions and comments is responsive to questions and comments
asks questions of others asks good questions, knows when to withhold answers
asks questions of her/himself gives honest and constructive feedback
admits not knowing all the answers admits not knowing all the answers
submits completed assignments on time returns graded work on time
is courteous in class treats all students fairly
knows the names of other students and the teacher knows the names of the students
does more than listen does more than talk

On this page: | Study Tips | How to Read Mathematics | How to Take a Math Test | Good Classroom Habits |

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