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Successful Math Study Skills

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  • 1. Successful Math Study Skills (and most other classes as well)This material has been summarized from the book Successful Math Study Skills by Paul D.Nolting and William A. Savage.Introduction:Skills like listening, note taking, time management, and memory are all important tounderstanding mathematics. Through the school year, we will practice and use these skills as westudy math.Why Learn Math?Math is part of our real everyday lives from mileage to money and from budgeting to zip codes.Not a day goes by that we are unaffected by math.  How many miles does your car drive on a gallon of gas and how much will it cost to fill your gas tank?  If your employer takes 20% of your gross paycheck for taxes, how much take-home pay will be left?  Don’t forget sales tax on purchases, tips paid to restaurant servers, measuring a room for new carpeting or paint, and much more.Graduation from high school often is a step to a good job. Employers are anxious to hire andpromote employees with good mathematical skills. Perhaps you wish to join the military –strong math skills will benefit you in selecting the best training areas and advancement. If youpurse careers in engineering, architecture, and the sciences, for example, a strong mathematicalbackground will help you as you continue your formal education beyond high school.Therefore, in addition to being a part of everyone’s daily life, success in mathematics opensmany job and educational opportunities.Math – The Language of Numbers:Math has its own set of rules, laws, grammar, and vocabulary.Symbols include the equal sign (=), greater than (>), less than, inclusion (<), percentage (%),Greek letters (Δ, θ, σ), and much moreNew math words include, polynomial, exponent, proof, square root, postulates, theorems, etc.Write down new math words and symbols in your notes with the definition and explanation.Include pictures/diagrams where necessary . Practice using the new symbols and words untilyou can pronounce, define and apply each new word, concept, or symbol.
  • 2. Math is Sequential:This means that learning new material is based upon knowing previously studied materal. It isimportant to avoid absences from class and to learn each day’s lesson because new material ispresent each day. Without a good understanding of the previous day’s work, new materialbecomes more difficult to understand. You must decide to pay close attention (take notes, workassignments) and make every effort to practice math every school day.Math is a subject that you learn by doing. Therefore, to properly learn math, you must practice.This means not only doing your assignments, but also understanding the reasons for eachproblem step.Study Buddies:One way some students learn best is with help form a study buddy. This is someone you canstudy with or call as you need help with a math problem. This is often best accomplished byworking to complete assignments before you meet. Then you can review answers and help eachother with problems that are particularly challenging.But, beware of some drawbacks: Not much work gets accomplished if you start talking aboutnext week’s dance or football game. Simply copying work from each other does not result inlearning, but can result in consequences for cheating.Time Management:Our busy lives include sports, work, television, video games, socializing, homework, church,travel, and many other activities. It is so very important to manage your time, allowing enoughdaily time to do assignments and thoroughly learn school topics.Develop a study schedule in order to set aside a certain amount of time per day and per week.Math should be studied every school day, perhaps more.Plan your work and work your plan.Listening Skills:Using your class time wisely will reduce the amount of your free time on studying andassignments. Class time is an important study period that should not be wasted.Good classroom study stills include:  Being a good listener, and  Developing good note-taking techniquesJust like an athlete or musician, warm up before the game or performance begins. In Math classthis means:  Review past class notes and reading material  Review your homework  Write out questions for class timeThis mental warm up refreshes your memory and prepares you to actively learn.
  • 3. Note Taking:The goal of note taking is to take the least amount of notes while recording the most importantpoints. Each day in class, begin by dating and numbering your pages of notes as well asindicating the chapter number and topic name to be covered.It is often most beneficial to copy all details of problems – step by step. This can be helpfulwhen you review your notes days or weeks later.There will be times when you get lost while listening or don’t understand the point being made.Put a question mark by steps you don’t understand or, if appropriate at the time, ask the teacherfor clarification.It is very helpful to use your own shorthand and abbreviations. For example:  Ex means “for example”  Pg means “page number”  * means “very important”  LCD means “least common denominator”Knowing when to take notes is important. A teacher often emphasizes facts or ideas verbally(summarizing, pausing, repeating statements) or by writing them on the board.Review your notes soon after each class period and refer to them for help with homeworkassignments. This will help you improve your understanding of math in class.Textbook Notes:Note taking is not limited to your teacher’s comments. Being an active reader is important too.Your textbook is a valuable resource for you.Because you do not own your high school textbooks, you are not allowed to write in them. It is avery good idea to write notes while reading with your textbook.Just like with class notes, use abbreviations, symbols, etc. as well as underlining important pointsand putting question marks next to the material you do not understand.Asking Questions:To obtain the most from class time, do not hesitate to ask questions pertaining to the classmaterial.By asking questions, you improve your understanding of the material, decrease your homeworktime, help others in the class with similar questions and help your teacher recognize materialneeding further explanation.
  • 4. Study Goals and Doing Homework:Using your time wisely is important in all aspects of life, no less important than in the classroom.The more you accomplish during the class period, the greater your understanding and the lesstime spent on your homework.To improve your homework success, review your class and textbook notes before starting yourhomework. This makes better use of your time and increases your chances of successfullycompleting your homework in a timely manner.SNOT – What’s it all about? When doing your homework, remember these keys to success:  Show your work  Neatness counts  Organization helps  Timely work is expectedHere’s another key --- falling behind in your math homework is academic suicide.Solving Word/Story Problems:Many math problems come in the form of a short story with two parts:  Gives the information  Asks the questionsRead the problem carefully, more than once if necessary. Identify what question is being asked.Then identify within the problem all the important facts.It is often helpful to convert the story problem into something more visually helpful like apicture, a diagram, a chart or table. Or perhaps you are able to convert the problem directly intonumbers, letters, and operations.Where and How to Study:Find a good place to study can dramatically improve the quality of your work and understanding.In choosing a place to study at home, pick one place, one chair, one desk or table as your studyarea. As you can imagine, it is not helpful to study in the vicinity of distractions like the TV orloud music. Quiet is important to concentration and learning.It is very important to always have the “tools of the trade” like paper, pencils, erasers, notebook,textbook, calculator, etc. ready and available in class as well as when and where you study. Allof these tools may be carried effectively in your backpack.
  • 5. Three Before the TeacherA very important part of learning is to become an “independent learner.” Before asking theteacher for help, have you investigated other learning sources?  Textbooks  Class notes  Previous problems  Glossary of Terms  Posters  Classmates  Internet  Many other resources Waiting for Teacher Assistance?If you are awaiting help from the teacher, there are many things you can continue to do to beproductive with your academics, including, but not necessarily limited.  Use the textbooks to read and study math topics  Study your class notes  Read and study any of the other math related resources available to you  Read Quietly  Three Before the Teacher