Study Habits of Students: Mathematics and Science
A combination of factors seem to affect a student's scholastic success. The most significant of these are intelligence and special abilities, motivation to succeed, and management of effective study methods. The latter two factors can be improved by efforts on the part of the student. The key to success is to identify your special abilities, interests, and potentials, and make the best use of them.
Efficient management of time and study procedures is also a significant factor in the formula for academic success. Efficiency implies maximum learning from the least time and effort expended. It requires organizing your time into effective study patterns that work for you. Planning a study schedule, and sticking to it, requires real effort. It means you must decide upon priorities.
A good rule of thumb is that, particularly for mathematics and technical courses, you should allow at least two hours for study for each hour spent in class.
As you develop a study schedule, you may find it necessary to give up or postpone activites that are fun, such as watching TV, going to the movies, talking on the phone, or just visiting with friends. Leisure time activities are important to all of us. However, they must be scheduled in relation to the study schedule. A sensible balance between leisure activities and study increases a student's chances of success. Your schedule for study should become a habit. Setting a time to study a certain subject increases the likelihood that you will retain the material and decreases the amount of time that you are likely to waste. Regularity seems to be the key as well as having one's priorities in order.
Developing effective and efficient study habits requires a knowledge of good study techniques and developing a study plan. Counselors, teachers, and a number of reference books can provide information on study skills.
The following are some examples of techniques that should prove helpful.
The Physical Setting for Study
The physical setting for study affects concentration. Inability to concentrate is one of the major causes of inefficient use of study time. A good location makes it easy to start studying and helps concentration. Here are some points that may help:
- Locate a good study desk or table located in an area away from distractions, such as other people talking, radio or TV, etc.
- See that your study area is well lighted and wear glasses if you need them.
- Study by yourself most of the time.
- Keep study materials and books near at hand.
- Make efficient use of study periods and free time during the day at school.
Planning or budgeting your study time is very important. It is essential not to fall behind. Once you fall behind, it is very hard to catch up because there is always new work to be done. This is true of all subjects, but particularly so of mathematics, science, and foreign languages, where an understanding of the material already covered is usually essential to understanding the new material. Here are some points to remember in planning your study time.
- Make and keep a study schedule.
- Budget your study time.
- Use odd moments for studying—take advantage of brief times during the day or enroute to school.
Solve Mathematics and Science Problems Efficiently
Math, science, and engineering courses differ from many others in that the emphasis is on developing an ability to solve problems. Only if you can apply the knowledge gained in reading the textbook or listening to lectures, do you really understand the material. Therefore, practice in solving problems is extremely important—simply rereading the textbook is no substitute! Here are some pointers that may help you:
- State the question in your own words; be sure you understand what is wanted.
- Determine what process or formulas you need.
- List the facts and figures required to answer the question.
- Estimate your answer; make sure that its numerical value is at least reasonable based on your general knowledge of the subject or similar, previously worked examples.
- Work out your answer in detail; compare it with your estimate. Be sure the units of the answer are correct or at least reasonable.
From "Careers in Science and Technology" published by the U.S. Department of Energy, National Technical Association and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, September 1993.
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