Student Success Center

Study Strategies for Math

This page describes strategies that can help you succeed in a range of math classes. For suggestions that can help you do better in a range of math and math related courses, click here.

Organizing Math Notes

The three column method is recommended for taking math notes. The first column keeps track of the math terminology, the second shows examples that are done in class, and the third gives you space for the explanation of steps. Many times an instructor works the examples on the board and verbally gives the explanation. This method helps to remind you write that explanation down so that when you do your homework and study for tests you have that information as well.

Click here for an example of how to do this.

P.O.W.E.R. Problem Solving

When doing math problems, think about the concepts before and after working them. Let this be a learning experience and apply POWER to problem solving! Working through these steps can help you prepare for more difficult application problems that will require you to understand and analyze problem situations.

Perceive. Read, experience and understand the problem by asking questions. What can I infer from this information? How does this problem compare to the examples in the section? What is the basic question in this problem?

Organize the information given in the problem. It may help to draw a picture, put information in a table or just list the given information and the main question.

Work the problem. Here is where you proceed to the actual solution. You may be required to write an equation and solve, simplify, evaluate, graph, find, interpret data or follow a procedure.

Examine your result to determine whether it answers the basic question that you wrote down in the perceive step.

Review the entire problem. This is a powerful step that can leads to understanding and an ability to analyze and apply the math concepts that you used. Ask, how did this problem build on the previous problems? After having done this problem, what other kinds of problems could you solve?

Click here to see an example of using the P.O.W.E.R. method.

Attitude Awareness

Watch your attitude! A negative attitude about math can lead to a poor math self-image, resulting in frustration and anxiety.

For example, a student required to take a math class for his major may say, "I've never been able to do math. Math is something that I just can't learn." The result is frustration, fear, and a tendency to avoid math as long as possible.

This poor self-image can send him (and you!) into a never ending cycle. Poor Math Self-Image -> Math Avoidance -> Math Deficiency -> Poor Math Self-Image -> Math Avoidance -> Math Deficiency -> Poor Math Self-Image -> Math Avoidance -> Math Deficiency -> Poor Math Self-Image -> Math Avoidance . . .

You can't change the situation, but you can change your reaction to the situation. For example, the situation is that you are required to take a math class for your major. You say, "I'm a smart person and can do this with adequate study time and the right help." The result is determination, less fear, and a tendency to feel in control.

Last Modified: 07/07/2010


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