How To Study Math
mathematics involves more than simply memorizing how and when to use
certain algorithms, formulas, and techniques. It involves gaining
expertise in how to reason and how to solve practical problems in our
daily lives. In the course of studying math, we are often exposed to
unfamiliar ideas and concepts. This requires us to be open and flexible
and to be willing to feel frustrated and uncertain at times.
The key to success in the
study of math is to be an active participant in the learning process.
Math is something you do,
not something you passively receive or observe.
• Recognize that studying math is
different from studying other subjects.
• Three elements contribute to success or
failure in math: ability, effort and strategy. If you aren’t
making the grade you want,
you may need to adjust your effort and strategies.
• Choose a positive attitude.
• Think with pencil and scratch paper.
• Be neat and accurate.
• Take time to do your work, and do it on
• Bring your text and notebook to every
• Concentrate on the fundamentals and
learn the vocabulary.
• Discuss ideas and concepts, not just
• Plan ahead. Be organized.
• When you don’t understand, ask
questions. Don’t give up.
• Try to find relationships between
similar problems. Focus on key steps and procedures.
• Study until the appropriate procedures
and strategies almost become automatic. Don’t just stop
when you’ve completed the
• Think through the problems rather than
trying to rely solely on memorized procedures.
• As you take notes in class, write down
any material written on the board (especially examples, as
they are worked); record any
new terms, symbols, definitions, and techniques; and record all the
material the instructor
"highlights". Later, read over your notes and add clarifying notations.
• Study between two and three hours for
each hour spent in class.
• Sit towards the front of the classroom.
• Always check your work: re-read the
question; check your calculations; do the problem over a
• When you see a word you don’t
understand, look it up.
• Study in a quiet, well-lit place away
• READ THE BOOK. Don’t just look at the
examples, work through them. As you read, write down
• When you have difficulty, consult with
your classmates, a tutor, or the teacher.
• When you get confused in class, don’t
just stop taking notes and daydream - ask a question, request
• Look over homework or exam problems you
got wrong. Try to learn from your mistakes.
• Ask questions in and out of class.
• When you miss a class, get the notes
from another student, ask the instructor about any
announcements, and make up
all missed assignments (whether the teacher will accept them for
credit or not).
• Before you begin doing your homework,
look over the text and your notes.
you’re stuck on an problem, take a break and come back to it later.
• Get a
math study buddy - somebody to study with, someone to call when you’re
stuck on a problem.
• Make your homework
notebook a homework diary. Write notes to yourself about your strategies,
worked and what didn’t, how problems relate, what to watch out for, etc.
• Find out what resources
are available to you besides the text, your classmates and the teacher.
may have access
to study guides, solutions manuals, computer tutorials, videos, audio
tapes, or study
the resources you can.
• Always show all your
work. The more you have on paper, the easier it will be to figure out
doing wrong and
what you’re doing right.
• Be an
• If you
cannot solve the assigned problem, look around for an appropriate related
every class. Be on time and do not leave early.
your math notebook neat and organized.
your notes often.
you try to do a problem, read the directions.
• Make note cards for every
new definition or term used; each new procedure or algorithm; common
particularly difficult problems; and general, representative problems.
45 minutes, take a 5 minute break from studying.
• It is
not enough to be familiar with the material, you must KNOW it.
try to “cram” the night before an exam. Study every day.
preparing for an exam:
Drill with note
cards; practice working problems with your book and notes closed; review
and reflect on
similarities, differences and possible variations on problems.
Get a good
night’s sleep; eat properly; stay hydrated, and relax for a few hours
before the test.
Just before the exam, refresh
your memory on one or two key procedures or concepts, but do not
• On a test, don’t just
start with the first problem and work straight through. Start with the
you know you
can do. Then do the problems that you are less confident about. Allot
checking your completed work and attempting the remaining problems.
• If you start to panic on a
test, try to rid yourself of distractions and concentrate on the
Clear your mind.
Relax. Consciously stop the cycle of negative self-statements. Take a
a problem you are reasonably sure you can do and start again there.