SOME GUIDELINES IN STUDYING MATHEMATICS
By Richard A. Miller, Bronx Community College

Studying Mathematics requires thought, effort and time. Expect to do roughly one hour of homework for each class hour.

TAKE NOTES IN CLASS. Highlight the important methods and concepts by drawing a box around them or drawing arrows or underlining. Add any comments of your own that help to clarify.

ASK QUESTIONS IN CLASS when something is not clear. Don't be embarrassed to ask. Whatever your question is there will be others who are glad you asked it.

Make a SUMMARY SHEET OF IMPORTANT RESULTS separate from your class notes. Add to it, after each class, whatever you think was the main part of the day's lesson. In this way, before each exam, and especially before the final exam, you will have the important results of the course in a convenient form, for review, without having to look for them in pages filled with examples. Use the examples to illustrate how the main results apply to the problems.

CONCENTRATE ON THE METHODS AND IDEAS FOR SOLVING PARTICULAR TYPES OF PROBLEMS. Do not try to memorize individual problems.

In learning a rule, LEARN WHEN THE RULE APPLIES and not only what the rule says to do. Using the right rule for the wrong operation leads to wrong results. Two negatives MULTIPLIED give a positive. Two negatives added give a negative.

DON'T FALL TOO FAR BEHIND THE CLASS. If you have trouble with a topic, don't wait too long before getting help (See the section ``HELP'' below). One topic often leads to the next and failure to understand it can prevent you from understanding the next topic also. Further, when the exams come you will find you have a whole course to learn anew rather than reviewing what you once knew.

After class, REVIEW YOUR NOTES. Try a problem done in class for yourself. Compare your solution with the instructor's. They don't need to match exactly, but the answers should be the same. If not, try to see where you went wrong.

USE THE TEXTBOOK for clarification or further explanation.

TRY THE HOMEWORK. No matter how well you understand the classwork you must do the homework for the experience with the problems, the practice and the self-testing. After doing several problems look for the answers in the back of the book. If most of your answers are correct, congratulate yourself on knowing that topic. If not:

1. See if your answer can be transformed into the book's by reducing a fraction, simplifying a radical, etc.;
2. Briefly check your work for errors;
3. Note the page and problem numbers and ask your instructor at the start of the next class to go over the problem. If you have trouble with many problems, study your notes and/or the book. Get help if needed.

COME TO CLASS WITH A LIST OF HOMEWORK PROBLEMS YOU WANT TO SEE. After seeing these problems in class, try them again for yourself.

HELP. The best source of help is your instructor. He or she will have two office hours per week for seeing students. Try to use these hours to get extra explanations and help. If you are busy during the office hours, ask your instructor if you can meet at some other time. However, this may not be possible.

In addition to, or instead of, seeing your instructor, tutoring is available free of charge and without an appointment in the Mathematics Tutorial Laboratory, CPH 123. Ask in the Math Department office CPH 315 (289-5411) for hours; regular weekly tutoring can be obtained by signing up in the Learning Resources Center, Sage Hall Room 100 (289-5329).

MISSED CLASSES. Regular attendance is very important in understanding a math class. If you miss a class, try to copy the notes from another student. Ask the instructor which sections in the book were covered and what the homework was.

EXAMS. Go over your summary sheet. Make sure you know the important concepts for each topic. THE BEST WAY TO MEMORIZE SOMETHING IS TO WRITE IT. Write it several times on scrap paper. Wait a while and see if you can write it down from memory. If not, write it several times again.

If you tend to panic in an exam, remind yourself at the start that the problems are just like the homework you've been doing well on. If the length of the test bothers you, cover the test with a blank sheet of paper and look only at problem number 1.

Even if you are not nervous, look for problems that you feel good about to do first. Skip those that you're not sure of or those that will take a long time to do. Come back to the skipped problems later. DON'T RUSH. TAKE THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT THE TIME YOUR START TO SOLVE IT.

Conduct a mental dialogue with yourself. ``What does the problem ask me to do? What operations are involved? What are the rules for those operations?''

Once the exam papers are handed out, you may write down anything you want, such as formulas or results that are hard for you to remember. This way, you need to only keep these results in your head for two minutes after the exam starts.

After the graded exam is returned, review any problems that you got wrong. Learn from the exam where your troubles are and get help if needed.