Pre-Algebra Study and Test-Taking Techniques Help (page 2)

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


Probably the single most important factor which determines success in mathematics is doing the homework. There's an old saying that "Mathematics is not a spectator sport." What this means is that in order to learn mathematics, you must do the homework. As stated previously, it is like learning to play an instrument. If you went to music class but never practiced, you could never learn how to play your instrument. Also, you must practice regularly or you will forget or be unable to play your instrument. Likewise, with mathematics, you must do the homework every day it is assigned. Here are my suggestions for doing your homework:

  • First and most important: DO YOUR HOMEWORK AS SOON AS POSSIBLE AFTER CLASS . The reason is that the material will still be fresh in your mind.
  • Make a habit of studying your mathematics regularly – say, three times a week, five times a week, etc.
  • Get your book, notes, and all previous homework problems, calculator, pencil, paper (everything you will need) before you start.
  • Do not dally around. Get started at once and do not let yourself be interrupted after you start.
  • Concentrate on mathematics only!
  • Write the assignment at the top of your paper.
  • Read the directions for the problems carefully.
  • Copy each problem on your homework paper and number it.
  • Do not use scratch paper. Show all of your work on your homework paper.
  • Write neatly and large enough. Don't do sloppy work.
  • Check your answers with the ones in the back of the book. If no answers are provided, check your work itself.
  • See if your answers sound reasonable.
  • Write out any questions you have about the homework problems and ask your instructor or another student when you can.
  • Draw pictures when possible. This is especially important in courses such as geometry and trigonometry.
  • If you have made a mistake, try to locate it. Do not depend on the teacher to find all your mistakes. Make sure that you have copied the problem correctly.
  • Don't give up. Doing a problem wrong is better than not doing it at all. (Note: don't spend an exorbitant amount of time on any one problem though.)
  • Use any of the special study aids such as summaries, lists of formulas, and symbols that you have made.
  • Don't skip steps.
  • Finally, if you cannot get the correct answer to a problem, don't stop. Try the next step.


In order to learn mathematics, it is necessary to review before the tests. It is very important to realize one fact. You cannot cram in mathematics. You cannot let your studying go until the night before the exam. If you do, forget it. I have had students who have told me that they spent 3 hours studying before the exam, and then failed it. If those were the only 3 hours they spent studying, there is no way they could learn the material.

Some teachers provide written reviews. Make sure you do them. If this is the case, you can use the review as a practice test. If not, you can make up your own review. Many books have practice tests at the beginning and the end of chapters. If so, you can use these exams as reviews. Some books have extra problems at the end of each chapter. By doing these problems, you have another way to review.

Finally, if there is no review in the book, you can make up your own review by selecting one or two problems from each section in the chapter. Use these problems to make up your own practice test. Be sure not to select the first or second problem in each unit because most mathematics books are arranged so that the easy problems are first.

When you review, it is important to memorize symbols, rules, procedures, definitions, and formulas. In order to memorize, it is best to make a set of cards as shown here:

Part 3 Study and Test-Taking Techniques

On the front of the card, write the name of the property, and on the back, write the property. Then when you are studying, run the cards through the front side and then on the other side. This way you can learn both the property and also the name of the property.

Finally, you must be aware that a review session is not a study session. If you have been doing your work all along, then your review should be short.

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