Throughout my math courses, I have been most successful when I have devoted a lot of time and effort to my studies. In these courses, I worked on homework and practice problems after every class, and kept up to date on the material that was being covered by going over the notes and completing assignments in small digestible bites. I sought help when I needed it, and did not allow myself to be fine with “just passing”. Having a positive attitude when approaching problems is important and it sets you up for success when you might otherwise be discouraged. Here are some tips to help you effectively study for your mathematics courses.
1. Foundations are important
Math is a subject where concepts build upon each other and the material is cumulative. If you encounter something in class, or in a homework problem that you know you have learned before but don’t quite remember, take the time to go over the material. Go over the material to understand it, not just to remember it. Chances are, if you have to go over it again, you may not have completely grasped the subject material in the first place, so this is the time to solidify your foundational knowledge.
2. Class counts
Going to class may not be “necessary” for all subjects in your opinion, but let me be the one to tell you that attending math class is crucial (I learned this the hard way). Of course you should go to all of your classes, but I have found catching up on material in my math courses to be the hardest after I had missed a lecture. The notes you take in your math classes will become the majority of your study material, so know what you’re writing down, and make helpful notes to yourself for later when you’re working on assignments.
3. Memorizing will not take the cake
By memorizing formulas, you will probably pass the test but you may not carry those skills further on into your future studies of math. Those will be the topics that haunt you in the future because you didn’t take the time to understand the concepts. I know that proofs can be tricky and convoluted to understand, but putting in the extra time to understand what is going on will save you time in the future.
4. Practice makes perfect
No one learns math by watching the professor write out and solve practice problems on the board. In fact, watching someone who is an expert fly through a problem may make the exercise seem way easier than it actually is. Working through the problems yourself is an active and necessary part of learning and internalizing the material. I would suggest first doing practice examples with the help of your notes or the textbook, and then slowly continuing to do examples until you do not need the support of your notes to complete them successfully. Independently completing the problems assures you that you can do the problems on an exam where you are not allowed notes to assist you.
5. Making mistakes is a part of learning, don’t let it discourage you
Normalizing error is a huge part of education, because as humans it is natural to make mistakes when we are encountering something new. Just because you don’t pick it up naturally the first time does not mean that you cannot succeed, and it does not mean that you are merely not good at it. I know that sometimes having that perspective can be challenging when you feel discouraged and apprehensive about what is in front of you (believe me, I have felt that many times over). I have only learned recently the importance of a positive outlook when learning and practicing math, and I wish I had realized this a lot sooner. So from me to you: keep your chin up and keep pushing, you can succeed at math.