How Do I Study Math?
Over the years, as a student and a tutor, I often get asked, or hear people ask how to study Math. It is definitely something that is harder than it seems, so I’m going to give you my 3-3-3 on how to study Math: 3 tips for 3 different times during your study period.
1. Before Studying
a. First, make sure that your study area is set up properly. Having a location that is both comfortable, but organized is key to being able to study effectively. If you’re not comfortable, you’ll probably not want to study as long, and if you’re unorganized, you’ll probably spend much longer than you need to sifting through your papers, and that will probably waste your patience and dedication to the study session. While you’re organizing, remove any distractions from the area. If you’re studying, you shouldn’t be going on social networks, or texting friends. Turn your phone off, logout of accounts, and do what you need to do to ensure that you won’t get distracted during a session.
b. Consider what you want to study in Math. If there’s a couple topics, like Factoring, Linear Equations or Graphing, that you’re having trouble with, you’ll want to study those. Maybe you’ve got a Math test next week, and need to review whatever’s on it. Regardless, get everything relevant in front of you, and anything you don’t need to do off to the side. Make sure you’re studying things that you don’t know how to do. This may seem obvious, but there’s no point in studying something you already understand. Also, while you’re still setting up, I would recommend not setting any sort of timeframe to your studying. If you do, you’ll either try to cram as much as you can if your time limit’s too short, or you’ll just fatigue yourself if you set your time frame too long. Just study until you’re done, it’s as easy as that.
c. I know a lot of people like to listen to music while studying, and I feel like it’s important enough to cover in its own section. A big question for many people is whether or not music helps during study. The effect of music varies from person to person, but overall, music with lyrics is distracting, and music without lyrics, such as classical music, can be beneficial. If you’d like to read more about this, a fairly comprehensive article can be found here: http://www.mindthesciencegap.org/2012/10/08/does-music-help-you-study/
Some of you are studying Math because you’re budding scientists. In that case, this might be a perfect opportunity for you to run a test on your own studying, and help you practice controlling variables. You might learn a thing or two if you try studying with various kinds of music, and then you can pick what works best for you.
2. During Studying
a. While you’re studying Math, select questions from a textbook (if you have one), or online if you’re using the Internet. Try to do these questions independently without any help. If you can do a few on the topic without any help, you probably understand the material better than you think, and you might have mastered enough to move on to another topic. If you get stuck, then it would be a good idea to look for help, maybe in your textbook at the relevant section, or on the Internet. If you still can’t solve the problem, and you have a professor, teacher, or tutor to help you, write down exactly what your problem is, move on to something else, and ask them tomorrow, or whenever you meet them next.
b. After completing a question, ask yourself if you understood it. Were there parts of the question that seemed confusing? Did you happen to get lucky on your way to the answer? Consider whether or not you understood the solution that you came up with, and do another question of the same type if you need to reinforce the concepts in the question.
c. Once you’ve covered all the material once, consider which material gave you the most trouble. Determine the hard part of whatever type of question is giving you trouble, and try to figure out why it is giving you trouble. Once you’ve done that, come up with a way to remember how to do the difficult parts, a way that you can easily recall next study session, or whenever you’re being tested on ideas in Math.
3. After Studying
a. Reflect on how you’ve studied. Were you productive during your session? Try to identify as many problems with that particular session as you can, and then think of ways to eliminate those problems.
b. Also, reflect on what you’ve studied. Consider all of the pitfalls and misconceptions that lead to common mistakes on certain problems. Is there a certain step in a question that is easy to mess up? Do you often misread the question? Are sign errors a frequent source of grief in your calculations? Try to be mindful of common mistakes that anybody would make in a particular question, and think of ways to remember how to do it. Also, consider common mistakes that you make, and brainstorm ways to minimize those errors. Above all, make sure you understand both yourself, and the material. It will allow you to complete questions more efficiently, with fewer errors.
c. Make plans for your next study session. If you can, have your study sessions at the same time each day, or on the same day each week. Having a habit will make it easier to study, instead of procrastinating. Also, plan what you’re studying next time. If you study the same thing multiple days in a row, you’ll be able to recall the material faster, and more accurately. Reinforce & review more difficult Math concepts over a series of days.
Follow this 3-3-3 model, you’ll have more success with your Math studying in the days to come. Keep in mind, however, that this isn’t the study guide to end all study guides. Such a thing is impossible, because everyone learns differently. This blog is intended to be a good starting point for everybody in studying Math, but at the end of the day, it is your responsibility to assess how well it works for you.
If you have success following this word for word, then great! Keep going like that, and you’ll do fine. However, if you find something slightly different works for you, then do that instead. At the end of the day, following a study guide isn’t important, but learning whatever you need to learn is. Do whatever you need to accomplish what you want to achieve.
Feel free to contact me by email or our live streaming page about Math or Study tips.