Study Strategies for Math Success
- Begin your study session by re-reading notes from class or the textbook lesson. Pay close attention to definitions and be sure to read over any sample problems. Some even find benefit in re-copying example problems, in order to prepare for solving similar problems in the future.
- The old adage "practice makes perfect" applies to studying math and is perhaps the best way to prepare for an exam. Following a specific practice procedure raises your odds of success. First, choose an array of problems similar to those that you learned in class or expect to find on the exam. If possible, select problems where a solution is provided -- but don't look at it just yet. Attempt to solve each problem without referring to any notes or other aids. If you get stuck, try to avoid looking at the solution; rather, find a similar problem to use as a reference. Compare your answer with the actual answer. If your answer is incorrect, return to your notes or textbook to figure out why.
- Get in the habit of reviewing your work for each problem. Re-read everything you wrote for a particular problem and double-check your computations with a calculator. In some topics, such as solving algebraic equations, you can even substitute your answer back into the original problem to ensure that your result is accurate.
- For simple memorization, as in multiplication tables or formulas like the Pythagorean theorem, flashcards can prove useful. Make your own simple flashcards from scraps of paper. Mnemonics are a handy device for recalling mathematical procedures and definitions. For instance, sixth-graders may be heard saying "Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally" to help them remember PEMDAS, the order of operations.
- Endless studying is all for naught if you possess a core misunderstanding of an element of the material. An underlying misconception will manifest itself via continuous incorrect answers to practice problems. If you can't identify where you went wrong, seek help from your teacher or professor, or consider finding a tutor.