Math: Study Skills, Note Taking Skills, And Test Taking Strategies

Math Study Skill Active Study vs. Passive Study
Be actively involved in managing the learning process, the mathematics and your study time:

College Math is Different from High School Math

A college math class meets less often and covers material at about twice the pace that a High School course does. You are expected to absorb new material much more quickly. Tests are probably spaced farther apart and so cover more material than before. The Instructor may not even check your homework.

You may know a rule of thumb about math (and other) classes: at least 2 hours of study time per class hour. But this may not be enough!

  • Take as much time as you need to do all the homework and to get complete understanding of the material.
  • Form a study group. Meet once or twice a week (also use the phone). Go over problems you've had trouble with. Either someone else in the group will help you, or you will discover you're all stuck on the same problems. Then it's time to get help from your Instructor.
  • The more challenging the material, the more time you should spend on it.

    Note Taking Tips for Math

    1. Write down the "title" of the lesson. If you don't know, ask the teacher.
    2. Write down the math problem and each step in the solution using math symbols. Next to each step write down "in your own words" exactly what you are doing.
    3. Write down a "question mark" next to anything you don't understand. Ask the teacher to explain the parts where you have written your "question marks". Don't just "let it go" thinking that you will figure it out later. Many times, it doesn't happen.
    4. When you get home, before you start your homework, "highlight in color" the titles you have written in your notes. The highlighted information will help to give you the "big picture" of what you are doing.
    5. Remember, do all homework problems, not just some of them!

    Studying for a Math Test

    Everyday Study is a Big Part of Test Preparation Good study habits throughout the semester make it easier to study for tests.

    Studying for a Test

    Test Taking Tips for Math

    You already have a lot of knowledge stored in your memory. The problem is pulling out the correct information when you need it. Picture your brain like a giant filing cabinet full of file folders and the hard part is remembering the headings on the file folders.

    1. Know how to distinguish between the various types of problems. This is the hardest part.
    2. Most math texts have chapter tests at the end of each chapter. Try one problem from each section. Make a note of their differences. Write down the first step to each problem -- this is usually the hardest to remember.
    3. Go back to the section in the text where you are having difficulty. Follow the examples making sure you understand each step. This takes time.
    4. Reading a math book is not like reading a novel. It goes slowly. It may take you 20 minutes to go through one example problem.
    5. Don't leave preparing for a test to the last minute. Make sure you leave time to ask questions in class AFTER you have studied.
    6. Do as many problems as you can until you feel comfortable with the material.
    7. In the class session a day or so BEFORE the test, ask the teacher to please point out any major similarities or differences among the various types of problems you will encounter on the test.
    8. Get the phone number of someone in your class who won't mind if you call them with questions.
    9. If possible, form a small study group with members from your class and meet periodically during the semester.
    10. Math is a cumulative subject. You REALLY need to understand today's material to understand the material the next day. Ask questions immediately in class as soon as you don't understand anything. Don't just "let it go".

    Taking a Math Test

    Test-Taking Strategy Matters Just as it is important to think about how you spend your study time (in addition to actually doing the studying), it is important to think about what strategies you will use when you take a test (in addition to actually doing the problems on the test). Good test-taking strategy can make a big difference to your grade!

    Taking a Test

    Getting Assistance

    Asking Questions

    You Control the Help You Get

    Helpers should be coaches, not crutches. They should encourage you, give you hints as you need them, and sometimes show you how to do problems. But they should not, nor be expected to, actually do the work you need to do. They are there to help you figure out how to learn math for yourself.

    Ten Ways To Reduce Math Anxiety

    1. Overcome negative self-talk.
    2. Ask questions.
    3. Consider math a foreign language -- it must be practiced.
    4. Don't rely on memorization to study mathematics.
    5. READ your math text.
    6. Study math according to YOUR LEARNING STYLE.
    7. Get help the same day you don't understand.
    8. Be relaxed and comfortable while studying math.
    9. "TALK" mathematics.
    10. Develop responsibility for your own successes and failures


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