How to Study for Math: Active Learning Strategies Equals Success!

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Math Requires Active Learning

To learn mathematics, you must be an active participant in the learning process. Simply attending class and watching the teacher work problems will not do. You need to pay strict attention while in class and take thorough notes. Practicing math problems on your own is a must, even if specific homework is not assigned. Doing well in math also requires studying regularly, not just before tests.

Many students believe studying math involves memorizing a set of formulas. While memorizing formulas is necessary in math, you need to understand how to use the formulas and apply them, too. You need to be able to recognize the parts in the problem that correspond to parts in the formula. Not understanding how to use the formula and the principle behind it makes it difficult to apply it.

Remember, math classes are cumulative. Almost all the work you will do in a math course will depend on topics you previously learned. College algebra, for instance, will be difficult without the knowledge of high school algebra.

Quick Tips For Good Habits

Follow these study tips to succeed in math.

  • Listen in class - Some teachers may not write everything on the board, and important concepts can be missed. Listen for what the teacher emphasizes.
  • Take Good Notes - Write down as much as you can from the board. Good notes will help you remember how to work problems. If you are having trouble listening while taking good notes, you may want to tape record the lecture. Be sure to ask your teacher’s or instructor’s permission first, though.
  • Ask Questions - Ask about anything you do not understand.
  • Listen to your Classmates’ Questions - Classmates may ask questions you did not think to ask, so listen to both the question and the answer.
  • Review Notes after Class - If you find something confusing, write down questions to ask your teacher to help you understand it.
  • Work on Homework after Class - While the lecture is still fresh in your mind, try to do some homework. This will allow you to better understand concepts just covered.
  • Use your Book - Do not forget to use your textbook. Your textbook will contain different examples or a different approach to problems.
  • Use Index Cards - Write down formulas and concepts on index cards. Use the cards to help you memorize them.
  • Complete Homework without Notes and Book - Put your notes and book away after working the first few problems. This will help you prepare for a test when you cannot use them.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice - Practice as much as possible. Do more problems than assigned. This is one of the best math study tips.
  • Refer to Graded Homework and Tests – Keep homework and exams when they are returned to you. They make good study material for future tests and comprehensive final exams.

Finally, be persistent. Realize that some concepts in math are more difficult to understand than others. Get individualized help from a tutor if you need it. Most importantly, use these math study tips and do not give up!