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Studying for Math

Schedule time for math

  • Math takes time; you cannot expect to learn it in five minutes or the night before the test. Begin studying as soon as the semester starts, rather than saving it all for the end.
  • Each Sunday, create your schedule for the following week. Pencil in your classes, appointments, etc. Then schedule time to study. Many shorter study sessions are better than one long marathon session.

Learn by doing:

  • You must actually do math in order to learn math. Much of your learning will take place at home while solving homework problems.
  • Take practice tests in order to prepare for real tests. When a test is made up of math problems, the only way to study is to practice completing math problems.
  • Make sure to check your answers and identify where you went wrong. Reworking these problems will help you remember how to solve them.

Learn math in class

  • Make sure to attend class. Each math class usually builds on the last. This means that if you miss one class, you will have to work hard to catch up. However, this also means that you will constantly be reviewing what you learned in the past, which helps you to remember it.
  • Actively listen. Take notes and ask questions. This will help you to understand the lesson, as well as help you pay attention if the subject is dull.
  • When taking notes, you should write down:
    • Concepts
    • Vocabulary words
    • Anything the professor writes on the board
    • Problems that you can later use as examples
    • Solutions to these problems, with a step-by-step explanation
    • A summary of what the professor is saying.
  • Make sure to write down the chapter or page number when it is possible. This will be incredibly helpful later on when you are studying from your notes.

Form a group

  • Form a study group as early as possible in the semester.
  • When doing homework, make note of which questions you have trouble with. Bring these problems to your group meeting.
  • Group members will likely have fresh perspectives, or be able to explain a concept in new ways that you will understand. Conversely, they may be stuck on a problem that you have no trouble with. “Teaching” others is the best way to help yourself remember difficult concepts.

Read your math textbook effectively

  • First, glance over the entire chapter. Read the titles, diagrams and graphs. This will help give you an idea of what you are about to learn.
  • Skip to the end of the chapter and read through the questions. You may not know how to solve them; this is understandable, because you have not yet read the chapter. Now you know the kinds of problems you will be expected to solve.
  • Read the chapter. Make note of any new definitions or concepts. Also note any areas you do not understand, and revisit these sections again. Work through the sample problems.
  • Now do the summary questions. If possible, do every other odd-numbered question (1, 3, 5...). This will allow you to complete a range of problems rather than just the first set.
  • Do not spend an hour working on one difficult question. Work for ten more minutes, and then move on to the next question if you are still stuck. A friend or study group might be able to help, or you can seek help from your professor, TA or a tutor.

Do homework

  • Do your homework. University professors may not check your homework problems, which means you have to take responsibility and actually complete them. Completing math problems is the best way to learn and remember math.
  • When completing homework, write out the entire solution. Do not begin the problem, assume you know how to finish it, and skip to the back to check the answer.
  • Similarly, if your solution is incorrect, go back to the beginning and try again. Don’t convince yourself that you know where you went wrong and could figure it out if you had to, without writing it all out.
  • While doing your homework, make a list of formulas or techniques that you think will be helpful for any upcoming quizzes or tests. It will be much easier to study when the time comes.
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