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Study Skills

Maybe you've heard the old joke, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice practice!" What do playing guitar, soccer, or learning a new language all have in common with math? All of these skills are acquired by spending some time practicing.

College students are expected to spend approximately three hours studying for every hour in class. For a 4 credit math class, that is 12 hours per week. This is just an expectation - some will need to spend more time with their school work, some less. Math skills will be acquired most easily if you study on a regular, daily basis.

Math books are different than newspapers or novels - they should be read slowly and carefully with a paper and pencil in hand. Please try to remember, time invested now will repay many dividends over the course of your lifetime. Work through examples in the book and fill in steps that have been omitted.

Keep focused on the reasons why each step was taken.  It will probably be frustrating to try and memorize the contents of an Algebra class.  It will be easier to take time to understand concepts and procedures. If you study your math in this manner, you will not forget things or feel overwhelmed by the material that you must master.

Please ALWAYS study the material that will be covered in class BEFORE that class period. This will make the class much more meaningful and allow you to be engaged. Perhaps even more importantly, it will allow you to collaborate with your teachers and classmates - together; we can make the process of learning math easier for EVERYBODY.

Take notes and write down what your instructor puts on the board, but be sure to listen to explanations and write them down too. Please remember, there is no magic in the words we use - grab onto concepts. Putting your notes in your own words is a great way to take "ownership" of your studies. If you ever feel lost, that is the time to take careful, detailed notes.

If you get stuck on a problem, review the material in the book that precedes it. Your notes and previous work should contain clues as to what to do. Find those problems that you could successfully complete that are similar to or contain similar elements to the problem you are stuck on. Be sure to pay close attention to WHY you used a successful strategy or procedure.

Try applying those successful strategies and procedures to the problem that you are having difficulty with. If you are still "stuck," reread the material and try again. Sometimes, it is helpful to take a break and come back to the problem with a "fresh" start. If you are still stuck - rest assured that you are now ready for someone to help you. Please see your instructor or a tutor.

Please remember that mathematics is sequential - you must understand the previous lessons before you can master the new ones. PLEASE DON'T FALL BEHIND, because a great deal of "make-up" work may be needed to get you back on track.

Practice, practice, practice the math skills by working with the exercises. In the process, you will develop valuable math skills, academic skills, and interpersonal skills. Perhaps even more important - applying yourself to master something will result in confidence and a self-understanding and appreciation. 

Isn't that really what a college degree is all about?

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