Getting railroaded by my two math classes -- ISO advice

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In summary: You can try copying or highlighting only the key points that the instructor hits, and then focusing on absorbing and understanding the material. You can also try using flashcards to help you remember the important points.
  • #1
opus
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Since the semester has started, I've found myself regularly behind in my math classes. I usually stay a lesson ahead, but these classes have a lot more material and go much faster, so I'm taking a beating. The material isn't hard, but the notes are what's killing me.

In one of the classes, we go through 3 sections per week, each section being around 10 pages, with a quiz the day following each lecture. I've always had excruciatingly detailed and organized notes, but really it has just been copying the book almost verbatim. I have a hard time not writing stuff down as I think it would be important to know later. For example, when we covered logarithms in my last math class, I searched out the proofs for them so I knew how each one worked, then wrote all that down too... So far, I have about 40 pages of notes for each class.

To give you an idea, I have been studying at minimum 6 hours per day for two math classes- which I don't have a problem with, if it was effective time. This has been killing me because we start the next section before I'm even done writing my notes for the previous section (and I still have to do practice problems after my notes). I've pulled 3 all-nighters in a 2 week period which I don't think is too healthy.

Any advice? I hope it doesn't sound like I'm complaining about the workload, because I love to grind out long days of hard work. I just feel like I'm spinning my wheels here. Falling this far behind even after daily 6+ hours of study seems way off to me.
 
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  • #2
opus said:
...The material isn't hard, but the notes are what's killing me...

I've always had excruciatingly detailed and organized notes, but really it has just been copying the book almost verbatim. ...
<<Emphasis added.>> I don't get it. If the lectures are lifted straight from the textbook, why are you making a copy by hand?
 
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  • #3
CrysPhys said:
<<Emphasis added.>> I don't get it. If the lectures are lifted straight from the textbook, why are you making a copy by hand?
Well the lectures arent entirely from the text. The instructor will hit a few key points, then do some examples. I think he's got a good system. So the book is necessary for sure, because he doesn't cover all of it but it will be on the quizzes.
As far as making a copy by hand- I see a fact or statement that's written in the book, I think its important and write it down. The problem is, I see everything as important so I am quite literally making a carbon copy of the book with hand written notes. I've tried to be more minimal, but I end up going back and adding what I left out in case it was actually important. Its ridiculous, I know. For example with reflections and transformations of graphs, I will write down the provided theorem, such as for graph compression, then draw an example of a compression for each type of basic function. So I guess I am terrible at differentiating what is important to write down, and what is superfluous information.
 
  • #4
What, specifically, are the two math classes?
 
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  • #5
Can you just have your book with you in the class and use a highlighter to mark important things? I don't see the point of re-writing things that are already there in black and white in the book right in front of you. You just need some way to mark the key things, which is why highlighters were invented.

You can then focus on writing things that are NOT in the book.
 
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  • #6
Scrumhalf said:
Can you just have your book with you in the class and use a highlighter to mark important things? I don't see the point of re-writing things that are already there in black and white in the book right in front of you. You just need some way to mark the key things, which is why highlighters were invented.

You can then focus on writing things that are NOT in the book.
I could try that. It would take some effort to not highlight everything but Ill give it a try!
Stephen Tashi said:
What, specifically, are the two math classes?
They are College Algebra and Trigonometry. They arent too taxing. I feel like I could learn a section in an hour or two. But I always have this bug in the back of my head saying if I don't take strict notes I will miss something important. I guess I am just looking for ideas for a way that's more time efficient.
 
  • #7
I don't get it. If you have a need to highlight everything, or to copy everything, then why copy or highlight anything at all? Just re-read the textbook.

Sounds like your problem is self-created.
 
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  • #8
I'd suggest you spend your time working problems instead of re-writing notes.
 
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  • #9
Scrumhalf said:
I don't get it. If you have a need to highlight everything, or to copy everything, then why copy or highlight anything at all? Just re-read the textbook.

Sounds like your problem is self-created.
It is self created, and I agree with your point that its the same as re-reading the book. But I do know that just re-reading the text is ineffective. But what I am doing is ineffective in terms of time management. So I am trying to find a halfway point. For example, maybe only writing down theorems? Or theorems with an example?
I understand this is a stupid problem. I am just looking for input on what some people found/find effective.
 
  • #10
In my experience, note taking is sometimes merely a technique for staying awake and trying to pay attention. Lack of sleep or a feeling of loggy-ness after eating can make it necessary to do something to focus our minds. It's also hard to pay attention if the lecture is covering material so fast that our mental processes can't keep up. I often found myself diligently taking notes because I'd given up on keeping pace with the lecture and hoped (usually in vain) to use the notes later to catch up. Sometimes there are classes that are so boring that taking notes is the only way to keep one's mind from wandering.

Another motivation for taking notes is the feeling that the subject matter is given by a set of somewhat arbitrary rules and procedures that can't be reasoned-out easily. It's somewhat like being at a meeting where a plan for some complicated endevour is being discussed. The boss says "Bob will do the following tasks...". There is not likely to be a way to reason-out why Bob got certain assignments, so to remember the plan, we feel compelled to take notes on it.

Consider your reasons for taking notes. Do any of the above motivations apply? I'd say all the above causes for note-taking are "legitimate", but there may be other techniques you can use to address them.
 
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  • #11
opus said:
For example with reflections and transformations of graphs, I will write down the provided theorem, such as for graph compression, then draw an example of a compression for each type of basic function.
Doing this for each type of basic function is a waste of your time. If you understand that ##y = \sin(2x)## represents a compression of the graph of ##y = \sin(x)## by a factor of 2 toward the vertical axis, you don't need to graph a bunch more basic functions.

phyzguy said:
I'd suggest you spend your time working problems instead of re-writing notes.
This...

By all means, read the textbook before class, and make sure you understand the examples. If you've been through the section before class, it will be easier to recognize material that the instructor presents that's not in the textbook. After class, work the problems.
 
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  • #12
opus said:
They are College Algebra and Trigonometry.
Is it normal where you are to take these two courses simultaneously? Is this your first exposure to this material or is this a review for you?

When I was in school we did algebra one year, and trig the next. Math builds on itself, more than other subjects. Once you start falling behind it is very hard to catch up. I recommend you get help soon. From the instructors, from other students, from tutors, something.
 
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  • #13
Mark44 said:
Doing this for each type of basic function is a waste of your time. If you understand that ##y = \sin(2x)## represents a compression of the graph of ##y = \sin(x)## by a factor of 2 toward the vertical axis, you don't need to graph a bunch more basic functions.

This...

By all means, read the textbook before class, and make sure you understand the examples. If you've been through the section before class, it will be easier to recognize material that the instructor presents that's not in the textbook. After class, work the problems.
That's a good point Mark- covering the general idea and deducing from there. I'll give that a try.
gmax137 said:
Is it normal where you are to take these two courses simultaneously? Is this your first exposure to this material or is this a review for you?

When I was in school we did algebra one year, and trig the next. Math builds on itself, more than other subjects. Once you start falling behind it is very hard to catch up. I recommend you get help soon. From the instructors, from other students, from tutors, something.
It's my first exposure to the material. I wouldn't say that taking them concurrently is "normal" as from what I've seen, most people that have already taken the Calculus prerequisites in high school would have done them separately. However at my university, they are allowed to be taken concurrently. They are both out of the same book, and before the sections, it tells you what you should know before beginning. So if I don't know the prerequisites, I go over them beforehand. So far I've been well prepared as I took a "College Algebra Prep" class last semester.

I fully agree with falling behind. I know how important these classes are and I take them very seriously, which is probably why I've been so obsessive about not missing anything. Understanding the material hasn't been a problem for me, but rather keeping up with the pace using my current studying techniques. I realized that no matter how many hours I put in, if I continue studying like this, I'm going to be in a rough(er) spot. This is why I made this thread. To get a few different ideas for studying, and I've received some great responses so I'll be trying them out.
 
  • #14
In my view the best use of your time is to do as many problems as you can. Math is like playing an instrument - practice practice practice!
 
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Related to Getting railroaded by my two math classes -- ISO advice

What do I do if I'm struggling in both of my math classes?

If you find yourself struggling in math classes, it's important to first identify the root cause of the issue. Are you struggling with understanding the concepts, or are you having trouble with time management and completing assignments? Once you identify the problem, you can take steps to address it. Consider talking to your teachers for extra help, forming a study group with classmates, or seeking tutoring services.

How can I stay motivated in my math classes?

Math can be a challenging subject, but staying motivated is key to success. Set realistic goals for yourself and celebrate small accomplishments. Try to make connections between the math concepts and real-life situations to make them more interesting. Additionally, seek support from friends, family, and teachers to keep you motivated.

What resources are available to help me with my math classes?

There are many resources available to help you with your math classes. Your teachers can provide extra help and clarification on concepts. Your school may also have a tutoring center or peer tutoring program. Online resources such as Khan Academy and Wolfram Alpha can also be helpful for practice problems and explanations.

How can I improve my math skills?

Improving your math skills requires practice and dedication. Make sure you understand the foundations of the subject before moving on to more complex concepts. Practice regularly, whether it's through assigned homework or extra problems. Seek help when needed and don't be afraid to make mistakes – they can help you learn and improve.

What should I do if I'm falling behind in my math classes?

It's important to address falling behind in math classes as soon as possible. Start by identifying where you are struggling and ask for help from your teachers or classmates. Catch up on missed assignments and seek extra practice. It may also be helpful to talk to your teachers about creating a plan to catch up and stay on track.

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