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math study skills & strategies
It is your responsibility to figure out what you understand
and what you don't understand,
and to ask for help when you need it.
Checklist of Study Skills.
- Attend class every day. This is the single action that is most predictive of success!!!
- Before class, read over the material that will be covered that day.
- Take complete notes while in class.
- Ask questions in class. Here are some example questions:
- I didn't get that third step. Could you explain it more slowly?
- What does it mean for this function to be _____?
- How is this problem similar to _____?
- Would this strategy work in other situations? What if _____?
- Visit the instructor's office hours (or make an appointment) to ask questions.
- Make sure you understand each step of each example done in class.
- Before starting the homework, review the text and your notes.
- As you work problems, identify what strategies you use and how to match each problem with a strategy.
- If you get stuck, look through your notes and text for a similar problem.
- If you're really really stuck, go on to the next problem.
- Once you have attempted all of the problems, make a note of where you had questions or got stuck.
- Discuss your questions with a friend, classmate, or the instructor.
- Be sure to write up all solutions in your own words.
- Good study habits throughout the semester make it easier to study for tests. Do the homework when it is assigned and ask your instructor questions as they arise.
- Start by going over each section and reviewing your notes.
- Check that you can still do the homework problems (actually work the problems again!).
- Use the examples in the text and notes - cover up the solutions and work the problems yourself, then check your work.
- Take turns with a classmate explaining the strategy of solving each type of problem.
- It's important to keep working problems the whole time you're studying.
Resources for When You're Stuck.
- Ask questions in class.
- Visit the instructor's office hours.
- Ask friends, members of your study group, or anyone else who can help. The classmate who explains something to you learns just as much as you do, for he/she must think carefully about how to explain the particular concept or solution in a clear way, so don't be reluctant to ask a classmate.
- Go to the Undergraduate Mathematics Resource Center (UMRC or "Help Lab").
- Find a private tutor if you can't get enough help from other sources:
All students need help at some point, so be sure to get the help you need. When you go to office hours, your study group or a tutor, have a specific list of questions prepared in advance. You should run the session as much as possible.
Studying Math can be different from studying other subjects.
- Math is learned by thinking about and doing problems. You must do the homework. The problems help you learn the formulas and techniques you do need to know, as well as improve your problem-solving skills.
- Each class builds on the previous ones, all semester long. You must keep up with the instructor: attend class, read the text and do homework every day. Falling a day behind puts you at a disadvantage. Falling a week behind puts you in deep trouble.
- Each class builds on the previous ones, all semester long. You're always reviewing previous material as you do new material. Many of the ideas hang together. Identifying and learning the key concepts means you don't have to memorize as much.
College math courses are different from high school math courses.
A college math class meets less often and covers material at a much faster pace than a high school class. You are expected to absorb new material much more quickly. Tests are probably spaced farther apart and so cover more material than before. Your homework problems may not all be corrected.
- Take responsibility for keeping up with the homework. Make sure you find out how to do it.
- You probably need to spend more time studying per week - you do more of the learning outside of class than in high school.
- Tests may seem harder just because they cover more material.
Sources for the material on this page.