You hold the keys to mathematics success
Welcome to the Mathematics page for the School of Professional Studies! As part of our liberal arts curriculum, we offer courses such as Introduction to Pre-Algebra, Introductory Algebra, and Finite Mathematics. The elements that lead to success in your mathematics courses are good study skills, effective time management, and practice, practice, practice! Tools like solutions manuals that accompany your textbooks and instructional videos in the MyMyMathLab online program serve as useful guides for managing challenging problems. Mathematics for some students, is a bitter pill that must be swallowed. This is quite understandable. You can understand 2 + 3, but all of sudden you encounter 2x + 3z – 5x, and making matters worse, you are being asked to combine these crazy things! This can seem like a daunting task and a source of great angst. This resource page is designed to equip you with tools and strategies to help you succeed in your math courses so that your mathematics experience can be a positive one. There is no math gene; hard work will most often yield the results you want!
Top 10 issues students face with mathematics
- Avoiding the math courses in your academic plan
- Missing too many classes
- Falling behind on homework and practice
- Not being able to retain information for exams
- Not knowing when to apply certain rules
- Understanding concepts in class but not at home
- Difficulties with addition and subtraction of integers
- Difficulties with subtraction of fractions and mixed numerals
- Difficulties with graphing lines and solving systems of equations using subsitution
- Difficulties with critical thinking and problem solving, i.e. word problems, logic, truth tables
TAKE YOUR MATH CLASSES AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. The math courses in the math sequence all have pre-requisites and thus, cannot be taken concurrently. If you wait until your senior year to take 3 outstanding math courses, you have now prolonged your graduation by 2 semesters (assuming that you pass the course on the first attempt). Be savvy and get your math course out of the way!
DON’T MISS CLASS. Research shows that there is a correlation between student attendance and overall grades in a course. Students who attend all class sessions typically are more successful than students who do not. Missing the first day of class in particular, can be a recipe for disaster. Let’s face it. If you’re not there, you cannot get the information you need. It can be much more difficult to comprehend the material on your own. In addition, you miss out on the opportunity to ask questions and to see what types of problems the instructor places emphasis on.
FALLING BEHIND IS NOT AN OPTION. Once you fall behind on homework or practice, you will be forever playing catch up! This creates anxiety and often leads to negative outcomes. Utilize a planner and keep track of when assignments are due and when exams will be admistered.
How to study
It is often said that math is not a spectator sport. This is absolutely true. Like playing a sport or an instrument, learning does not occur by watching, but rather by doing. Math is in essence a language. Like writing, where you must know vocabulary and learn rules for grammar, punctuation, and style, in mathematics, there are many symbols, rules, procedures, and formulas. The goal in studying mathematics should be to understand the “why” behind the steps, rather than to simply mimic procedures without understanding. The first critical element in studying mathematics is to read the textbook. What makes mathematics unique, is that studying may require a student to read one page multiple times for understanding, a task that might be uncomfortable, but one that makes all the difference. Reading one page of text should involve underlining key words, reading through each worked out example, trying the problems in the margins of the text, highlighting formulas, and making note of concepts and procedures that are unclear.
Once you have read the text, including all the examples for the specific topics covered in the section, your next step should be to practice the exercises that deal with the objectives for the respective section. This can take many forms. Perhaps, you decide you will do the odd exercises at the end of the section, and then check the answers in the back of you book. Alternatively, you may decide to do the homework or study plan exercises in MyMathLab online and review your answers online afterwards. The biggest mistake that most students make when taking a math course, is that they do only the homework that is assigned by the instructor and nothing more. The proper way to study, is to do not only the homework that has been assigned, but an additional 20-30 problems that have not been assigned. This ensures that when the instructor gives an exam, you will be able to handle all types of problems that you encounter, not just the ones that look like what you did in the homework.
The final step in study of a section could be to take a section quiz either provided for you in the book or online via an online math program. Make note of the skills and concepts mastered and not mastered. For concepts and skills and that you struggled with, you should make sure to schedule an appoinment with your instructor to get clarification.
Studying should take place in an environment where you are comfortable and free from distraction. For success, you should be prepared to put in at least 4-6 hours of study a week for your mathematics course. Remember, to learn it, you must do it, and you must do it over and over and over. Repetition is a critical component in the retention of mathematical processes and the reinforcement of mathematical skills. If mathematics is not your favorite subject, one strategy for studying, is to study it first, before you study your other subjects, as a way to avoid procrastination and failure. Another strategy is to study your other subjects first, so that you can devote more time comfortable you the study of mathematics. Try the strategies out, and see which is more effective for you.
Consider forming a study group if you are a social learner. Incorporate coffee, snacks, and timely breaks into your study session. Remember, the brain can only handle so much information at once. Break study sessions up into chunks. Studying for 2 hours 3 times a week is more effective than studying once a week for 4 hours. If you are a visual learner, you may want to consider making flashcards to help you keep track of rules and formulas, or creating a math glossary. Re-writing one’s notes is a great way of reinforcing information learned. If you learn well by hearing, you may want to obtain permission from your instructor to audio record the lectures. Study for regular exams should begin exactly 1 week (and no less) prior to the exam date. Study for a cummulative final exam should begin exactly 3 weeks before the fina exam date. This allows for enough time to review your notes, exams, quizzes, and supplemental resources, as well as get clarification about any material that you is still muddy.
Remember, although some students seem to have a natural knack for certain subjects like writing, history, and math, others have still been successful because they put the work in. Don’t be afraid to sweat! Most importantly never give up!
The importance of self-talk and confidence
Have you heard of the self-fulfilling prophecy? If you tell yourself that you will fail, then you will. Holding a positive attitude is another important component of mathematical success. If you have the right attitude, you are more likely to engage in effective mathematical habits. If you tell yourself that you will fail, then you have already set your mind to achieving a negative outcome. If you tell yourself that you will do your best however, then you are setting yourself up for a positive outcome. It is possible however to hold a positive attitude, try your best, and still not achieve a positive outcome. However, this just means that you have to be even more dedicated and study more effectively the next time around. Sometimes, students need to take a course twice in order to fully grasp the material. This holds true for any subject. Positive self talk involves making affirmations and positive statements such as “I will do my best”, “I will study”, versus “What if I fail?” or “I am not good at math” or “No matter how hard I try I know I won’t be able to do this.”
Read the handout below for more information on self-talk.
Many students are quite good at mathematics, but because of negative experiences, have stopped believing that they are. Remind yourself daily that you are an intelligent student! Other students have the potential to do well in mathematics, but cannot gain the confidence they need because they are afraid to do the math.
Practice aids students in building mathematical confidence. If you have not previously felt confident in your math abilities, start with a basic problem, do several more like it and do them correctly, then work your way up to more challenging problems. Similarly to a basketball player practicing their free throw shots, by practicing as many problems as possible with accuracy, you become more and more confident in your abilities.
Combatting mathematics anxiety
You know that feeling of sheer terror, sweaty palms, and your heart beating at a mile a minute? When your face clenches up into an unrecognizable form and your whole body tenses up. You guessed it; this is mathematics anxiety. It is most common right before an exam for students to experience this anxiety. Below are several strategies for overcoming math anxiety.
- Engage in deep breathing and muscle relaxation while doing all mathematical work.
- Arrive to an examination 15-20 minutes prior to exam, and sit in the seat that you intend to take the exam in.
- Chew gum while engaging in mathematical work.
- Simulate an exam environment where you reside, in a library, or some other quite place. This includes timing yourself as well as pacing yourself.
- Practice, practice, practice. Think about it, if you have done 50-100 problems, then no matter how nervous you are, you will likely still peform well because you have trained your mind, and it will remember what you have trained it to do.
For extreme cases of anxiety, you may consider seeing a licensed pscyhologist that specializes in anxiety reduction and elimination.
Find mathematics assistance
Rule number 1 in the battle for success, never be afraid to ask for help! If you don’t ask, you will not recieve the help that you need. Utilize resources such as your textbook, websites, tutors, and your instructor. One mistake that students sometimes make is that they wait until after they have failed 3 exams for example, before reaching out for assistance. By that point, it is probably too late to boost your average in the course to where you need and want it to be and you have not only wasted time, but also finances. Save yourself the hassle and ask for help as soon as you realize that you need it.
One on campus resource is the Mathematics Center. Click on the link below for more information.
The following is a list of useful electronic resources for varying mathematical topics:
Online basic algebra
Online tutorials for finite math and applied calculus
Online statistics text
Online tutorials for all math topics
Click here for videos for challenging topics