Tips for Doing Well in Math Classes
Duane Kouba by Dave Levermore
- Develop an effective and time-efficient homework/study strategy
for, not only your math class, but other classes as well. This will
help you become a more confident, successful, and well-rounded student.
It will lead to a healthier balance between work time and leisure time.
- Look over material before it is covered in lecture. This
will enable you to follow lectures better because you have some
understanding of the material. It will also enable you to formulate
questions about things you do not understand. The better you
understand the lectures, the more productive your subsequent study
time will be.
- Spend at least two to four hours on each homework assignment.
This affords you extra time to work on challenging homework problems and
facilitates your organizing your thoughts and ideas. The more time you
spend on homework, the more likely you are to articulate clear, concise
questions to your classmates and teachers. The more time you spend on
homework, the less time you will spend on frantic, last-minute
preparation for exams.
- Find at least one or two other students from your math
class with whom you can regularly do homework and prepare for exams.
Your classmates are perhaps the least used and arguably your best
resource. An efficient and effective study group will streamline
homework and study time, reduce the need for attendance at office
hours, and greatly improve your written and spoken communication.
- Begin preparing/outlining for exams at least five class days
before the exam. Outlining the topics, definitions, theorems,
equations, etc. that you need to know for the exam will help you focus
on those areas where you are least prepared. Preparing early for the
exam will build your self-confidence and reduce anxiety on the day of
the exam. It's also an insurance policy against time lost to illness,
unexpected family visits, and last minute assignments in other classes.
Generally speaking, pulling all-nighters and doing last-minute cramming
for exams is a recipe for eventual academic disaster.
- Prepare for exams by working on new problems . Good sources
for these problems are unassigned problems from your textbook, review
exercises and practice exams at the end of each chapter or old exams.
Because most problems for a given topic are generally found in the
same section of the book, knowing how to do a problem because you
know what section of the book it is in could give you a false sense of
security. It is better to work on randomly mixed new problems because
it requires that you both categorize a problem and then solve it,
which more closely simulates an exam situation.
- Prepare for exams by finding new ways to do old problems .
Many problems in this course will have more than one way to do them.
The more ways you see how to do a problem, the more likely it is that
you know the best way to do the problem, and the better you understand
the problem. Knowing the best way to do problems saves time on exams.
Once you have found one way to do a problem, you can build upon that
understanding by seeking other ways to do it. One way to do this is
by comparing your solution with those of your classmates. You will
find that explaining your solution to others will challenge your own
understanding and stimulate new insights.
- Use all resources of information which are available to you.
These include classnotes, homework, quiz, and exam solutions, your
professor, tutoring services, on-line resources, and your classmates.
Do not rely exclusively on just one or two of these resources. Using
all of them will help you develop a broader, more natural base of
- Expect your exams to be challenging . If they are challenging,
you will be prepared. If they aren't challenging, you will likely do
- Knowledge is a means to personal empowerment. Attaining knowledge
can be an endless source of joy and satisfaction.