Study Tips for Mathematics

  • Studying math is different from studying other subjects.
    • Make it about doing problems
    • Allot daily time for math homework
  • Practice! Assign yourself any problems not formerly assigned
  • Get help often!
    • Visit math department tutors and SSC study groups even if you don’t need help.
  • Confirm not only that you have the correct answer but also that the process for solving the problem is correct as that is often work the same or more in points than the answer itself.
  • Attend class every day.
  • Take notes on different “types” of problems to recognize the problem setup.
  • Experiment with problem format
    • Can you calculate the equation if presented in a word problem form?
  • Participate in class and let the teacher know your problem areas.
    • Remember if you are having the problem, others probably are, but are not saying it. Consider this from the teacher’s perspective... everything is going well if students don’t have questions.
  • Work slightly ahead in the book so that you recognize problem formats when the teacher presents them during lecture. Then, use the lecture to “fill-in-the blanks” where you had questions from the reading.
  • Write complete answers to homework, as if you were taking a test in order to ingrain habits such as listing unit labels, which is a frequent way students lose points.
  • Go to office hours and ask questions. This helps instructors invest in you as well as helps them gauge overall class understanding.
  • Math is also about understanding and using terminology.
    • Force yourself to speak the language and allow that corrections by the instructor and peers provide a more nuanced understanding of the term
  • Every class builds on previous classes, so don’t get behind in any concept or chapter.
  • Build on previous concepts by understanding how new concepts link to past ones.
  • Break down multi-step problems into smaller parts.
    • This strategy can also work on tests. If there is a step you can’t perform — you may earn partial credit for the work you did.
  • Put yourself in test-like conditions to help understand how stress is triggered.
    • Repeated exposure will build confidence that you’ve handled the stress before.
    • Try designating certain amounts of time to certain problem types and then move on when time expires to insure that you are covering the bulk of questions
  • Explore different test taking strategies.
    • Answer easy first to build confidence vs. tackling hardest first as an outline of all needed formulas
  • Answer all questions, even if the answer only results in the process, this may garner partial credit.
  • When studying/reviewing, have a question page with direct questions that will allow you to get the best answers. Rather than, "How do you do #4? Try, "How do I set up #4?"
  • Problems testing
  • Problems testing skills (drill)
  • Problems where you apply skills to familiar situations (template problems)
  • Problems where you apply skills to unfamiliar situations
  • Problems requiring that you extend the skills or theory
  • Multi-step problems combing one or more of the above
  • Convert the problem to an equation
  • Identify the goal of the problem
  • If a quantity is not a fixed number, make it a variable
  • Look for relationships in the problem, variables