Pre-Algebra Study and Test-Taking Techniques Help

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 26, 2011

Study and Test-Taking Techniques

Having an understanding of math anxiety and being able to reduce stress are not enough to be successful in mathematics. You need to learn the basic skills of how to study mathematics. These skills include how to use the classroom, how to use the textbook, how to do your homework, how to review for exams, and how to take an exam.

The Classroom

In order to learn mathematics, it is absolutely necessary to attend class . You should never miss class unless extreme circumstances require it. If you know ahead of time that you will be absent, ask your instructor for the assignment in advance, then read the book, and try to do the homework before the next class. If you have an emergency or are ill and miss class, call your instructor or a friend in the class to get the assignment. Again, read the material and try the problems before the next class, if possible. Be sure to tell your instructor why you were absent.

Finally, if you are going to be absent for an extended period of time, let your instructor know why and get the assignments. If you cannot call him or her, have a friend or parent do it for you.

Come to each class prepared. This means to have all the necessary materials, including homework, notebook, textbook, calculators, pencil, computer disk, and any other supplies you may need.

Always select a seat in front of the classroom and near the center. This assures that you will be able to see the board and hear the instructor.

Pay attention at all times and take good notes. Write down anything your instructor writes on the board. If necessary, bring a tape recorder to class and record the sessions. Be sure to ask your instructor for permission first, though.

You can also ask you instructor to repeat what he or she has said or to slow down if he or she is going too fast. But remember, don't become a pest. You must be reasonable.

Be sure to ask intelligent questions when you don't understand something. Now I know some of you are thinking, "How can I ask intelligent questions when I don't understand?" or, "I don't want to sound stupid."

If you really understand the previous material and you are paying attention, then you can ask intelligent questions.

You must also remember that many times the instructor will leave out steps in solving problems. This is not to make it difficult for you, but you should be able to fill them in. You must be alert, active, and pay complete attention to what's going on in class.

Another important aspect you should realize is that in a class with ten or more students, you cannot expect private tutoring. You cannot expect to understand everything that is taught. But what you must do is copy down everything you can. Later, when you get home, apply the information presented in the chapters of this book.

Be alert, active, and knowledgeable in class.

The Textbook

The textbook is an important tool in learning, and you must know how to use it.

It is important to study your book. Note that I did not say "read" your book, but I purposely said study .

How do you study a mathematics book? It is different from studying a psychology book. First, look at the chapter title. It will tell you what you will be studying in the chapter. For example, if Chapter 5 is entitled "Solving Equations," this means that you will be doing something (solving) to what are called "equations." Next, read the chapter's introduction: it will tell you what topics are contained in the chapter.

Now look at the section headings. Let's say Section 5.3 is entitled "Solving Equations by Using the Multiplication Principle." This tells you that you will be using multiplication to solve a certain type of equation.

Take a pencil and paper and underline in the book all definitions, symbols, and rules. Also, write them down in your notebook.

Now, actually work out each problem that is worked out in the textbook. Do not just copy the problems, but actually try to solve them, following the author's solutions. Fill in any steps the author may have left out. If you do not understand why the author did something, write a note in the book and ask your instructor or a friend to explain it to you. Also, notice how each problem is different from the previous one and what techniques are needed to find the answer. After you have finished this, write the same problems on a separate sheet of paper and try to solve them without looking in your book. Check the results against the author's solutions.

Don't be discouraged if you cannot understand something the first time you read it. Read the selection at least three times. Also, look at your classroom notes. You may find that your instructor has explained the material better than your book. If you still cannot understand the material, do not say, "This book is bad. I can't learn it." What you can do is go to the library and get another book and look up the topic in the table of contents or appendix. Study this author's approach and try to do the problems again.

There is no excuse. If the book is bad, get another one.

Remember that I didn't ever say that learning mathematics was easy. It is not, but it can be done if you put forth the effort!

After you have studied your notes and read the material in the textbook, try to do the homework exercises.

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