Some Tips for Successful Math Study
There is nothing about math that makes learning it different and more
difficult than learning other subjects. Still, most students enter math classes
with attitudes and expectations that make success difficult. Here are some
strategies that will help you be successful in the math courses that you are
Reading Math Textbooks Effectively
- Read the assigned sections before class so that you will have some idea of
what the instructor is teaching.
- Work through the examples in the sections covered in class.
- Develop your own note taking strategy. For example:
1. On 5 x 8 cards
write strategies for solving problems. Some textbook authors provide such
strategies that can be copied exactly.
2. You will also find it useful to
write math rules, laws, or theorems on fact cards.
These facts must be
learned word for word.
3. The third type of information you should extract
and write out as you read your
math texts is specialized vocabulary and
symbols along with their definitions. Like the theorems, these definitions must
be learned exactly word for word.
- Do not look at the different sections of a chapter separately. In most
cases, the sections in a chapter are inter-related and knowledge of the material
in the previous section may be required to understand the next section.
- Make use of the library for additional reference.
Taking Math Lecture Notes
- Come to class prepared and do not miss classes.
- Do not waste time writing what is in the textbook. You will, of course,
have to read the textbook carefully before class to know what is in the book.
- Get down what is on the board along with the explanation that goes with it.
- If your professor moves so fast that you can't get both the board material
explanation, leave blank spaces in your notes. Then within
twenty-four hours, write additional explanations for each step of a problem so
that you will be able to understand it when you study for exams.
- Outline topics discussed and examples covered in class.
- Be careful with symbols. Ones you use in other classes to separate points,
such as the dash, turn into math symbols in math classes.
- Ask questions and make sure that you understand everything that you wrote.
Preparing for Math Exams
- Have clear definitions in mind and understand the meanings of theorems.
- Go through the examples given in class or in the book; understand the
concepts and the
techniques used instead of focusing on the mechanics of
solving a problem.
- You really learn math when you work problems. Work as many homework
problems as possible on your own (whether graded or not). Do not copy from a
friend or from a book. Focus on understanding rather than manipulating numbers
just to obtain the answers in the back of the book.
- Do not wait until the last minute. Success in math is achieved through hard
studying every day and never cramming the night before the exam.
- Get all the help you can from your instructor or the tutoring service.
- Go over previous tests and homework and correct mistakes.
Taking Math Exams (Test-Taking Strategies)
- Start with the questions you know how to do.
- When you go back to the unanswered questions, read each of them for clues
to help you answer these questions.
- Use your time well. If you are pressed for time, work on the problems that
are worth the most points.
- Never just write an answer. Always show all your work.
- Remember that you are explaining to the professor what you know, so do it
logically and clearly.
- Check when you have finished to make sure that your answers are logical.
- If you think you are missing a necessary piece of information, check to see
if you calculated it or if it was given in a previous problem or in a
previous part of the question.
- Check to see if you used all the data given.
- Proofread for careless errors.
Major Causes for Failing a Math Course
- Lack of motivation. Unwilling to commit the time and personal effort
necessary to master details of the course.
- Not becoming serious about learning the material as evidenced by high
absence rate in some lower-level math classes. Students miss too many class
sessions and do not spend sufficient time on the material outside class, or
they don't try to get help from instructors and tutorial services.
- Failure to do homework.
- Getting behind, letting things pile up, and trying to catch up after it is
- Inadequate preparation for the course and not having knowledge of the
- Not reading the book and relying completely on the lecture, or relying
completely on the book and not taking notes of important things said in
- The fast pace of some classes and failure to study at a steady pace.
- Entering math classes with negative attitudes and expectations that make
- Poor high school backgrounds.
- Not going over tests and homework and correcting mistakes.
1. TLC; utep
2. Wood, Nancy V. College Reading and Study Skills, New York: Holt,
Rinehart, and Winston, l986.
3. Suggestions made by faculty members.