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How to study well in Math ?

  1. Jun 30, 2003 #1
    Hi everybody,

    At the moment, I find it difficult to study Math. It's difficult for me to learn methods from the exercises, especially in geometry. It's the reason why I can't study well.
    Besides, there're a lot of exercises that we can't do (many reasons, for example: we don't have enough knowledge, we're not intelligent enough ). I don't know when we should stop thinking and see the key

    What should I do ?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2003 #2


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    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member
    Dearly Missed

    I don't have any magic fix for you. Just don't give up on math because you can't do Geometry examples. This is a common problem and you are in good company.

    Math talent, and especially Geometry talent, is a special skill, like musical ear or the ability to shoot three pointers. People who can't make the cut in Band or the Team don't give up on enjoying music and basketball, and people who are doomed to struggle with Euclid could very well be enjoyers of algebra and calculus.

    Like one old time great mathematician told his students, "Go on, and faith will come to you."
  4. Jun 30, 2003 #3
    I find doing as many examples as possible is the best way, if you can't do some, find some easier ones and find worked examples of find a tutor?
  5. Jun 30, 2003 #4
    It helps to have a visual thing to play with if you're doing geometry. Cutout shapes, multi sided dice, programs that let you construct geometric things geometrically, and so on will help you enormously. These techniques continue to help even in higher level math.
  6. Jul 2, 2003 #5
    I'm not a natural math whiz at all and in fact, for a while I had trouble in mathematics for quite some time (which is the irony because I'm a math major).

    What helped me with mathematics was based on several things:

    1. If I didn't understand the book, I went out and purchased another one that I could understand better. There is no such thing as an "easy" book but some books can explain concepts better than others.

    2. I went to the professor as often as I could. Some professors will go our of their way to help you (I've been blessed to go to a school where nearly the entire math and science division will stay long hours just to help you). Going to a professor on your own time also lets the professor know that you are concerned with your learning of the material and that could help out quite a bit. And don't feel like your hindering on a professor. Their job is to help you understand the material.

    3. Practice Practice Practice. It seems obviously but you won't believe how many people fail to abide by it. When I was in Calculus I, we were studying Related Rate problems and I was completely clueless. Since it was the weekend and I couldn't find my professor anywhere, I tried a problem with different approaches, when I found the correct approach, I went to the next problem and worked on that one. I think in that one night I worked over 40 Related Rates problems and by that time, I basically mastered the concept.

    4. Keep a math journal. It seems silly, but I kept a journal with problems, solutions and even a few words describing how I was feeling at the moment. With this journal, I was able to analyize my weak points and my strengths.

    5. Anybody that is discouraging you, I would recommend to stay away from them. That discouragment and unneccessary babble will destroy you (and your grade) if you are not careful.

    6. As soon as you finish the class, don't immediately throw the book out the window. Keep it as a reference source and when you have freetime, go through and work some problems. This will keep your mind active and you won't forget the material. I had just finished my course in Calculus IV - Linear Algebra. If most of my classmates from that class went back and took a Calc I, Calc II, or even Calc III course, they would probably fail it because they simply allowed themselves to forget. Even to this day, I still work out problems from every level of Calculus I've had and this keeps me fresh on concepts (and it also allows me to help other students). Keeping up with previous concepts is important because math builds up on previous concepts.

    Hope this helps.
  7. Jul 2, 2003 #6


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    Greetings !

    I think it's simple - practice, practice and then practice
    some more. Mathematics is just like any other skill only
    very very technical and complex. Thus practice is the only
    way to get it.

    I personally have what I consider considrable theoretical
    knowledge and as I'm about to begin my studies soon
    math is my only concern. I can easily grasp any theoretical
    stuff and I'm pretty certain I'll know most of it in the
    first place but math just totally scares me because I'm so lazy
    and lack the will power when it comes to practice of math. I very
    vaguely remember all that differentiation and integration stuff
    from a few years back in high-school and all the trig with a different trick being the only way to find solutions per-page of exercises (with dozens of pages) and I even had a private tutor,
    but it hardly made any difference because I didn't practice
    and invest myself in it enough. I hope that this time my
    strong desire to learn in general (not math though) and the
    free time will make the difference, but the mere memory of
    that trig book or that calc stuff freakes me out. Think of it
    like you think about physical training - if you really wan'na
    be in shape you got'ta practice till your muscles ache all the
    time and you fall from exhaustion.

    In short , stop wasting your time on reading my complaints,
    lock those hand-cuffs on your leg and the that of the chair
    and go to work ! :smile:

    Live long and prosper.
  8. Jul 6, 2003 #7
    The best advice given to me about learning how to do and understand math was from my 9th grade algebra teacher. She told the class that "If you want to do well in math, LEARN TO READ IT." So I did. Mathematicians are lazy. So they use a lot of symbols to keep from writing out everything. Learn what things mean and where they belong. It is truly a language in itself. It remains constant whether written in English, Arabic, Chinese, etc.

    There are very few ppl who can take one algebra course then just jump right into a multivariate calculus course (for example) and understand it. One thing you have to understand is that learning math like building a house. You can't get to the roof without first building the foundation. This is where the practice and memory exercises comes into play. When you practice the the problems they become instilled. Therefore when carrying from one area of mathematics to another, it makes it less difficult to understand. Use the examples given in the textbook as well. They are a math student's best friend. Don't be afraid to think outside the box. Usually there is more than one way to get to a solution. Learn how to read and write in the mathematical language.
  9. Jul 7, 2003 #8


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    I'm pretty pathetic at math myself, especially calculus. Right now I'm studying about an hour a night and going to see my professor about twice a week before class. I think I'm going to start studying a little more each night (maybe 2 hours) and see what the outcome is on the upcoming test. If I see an improvement in my test scores, then I'll even add a little more study time.

    Anyways, good luck with every thing!

    Sting, read your pm's.
  10. Jul 9, 2003 #9
    Thank you, thanks alot for your replies
    I think I've learnt a lot from them. Thanks again.

    However, my 2nd question seem to have not been answered.
  11. Jul 9, 2003 #10
    Ok. What was the 2nd question?
  12. Jul 16, 2003 #11
    One little trick that I used to use for memorizing trig relationships was to draw a simple picture. It consisted of 6 dots like so:

    ... = sin cos tan
    ... = csc sec cot

    and then i connected the lines in various ways. curved lines for one type of relationship, straight for another. Then I drew it on my calculator, and it just looked like a simple picture to those who didn't know, yet to me, through using my own notation it meant a lot. That sound like cheating (maybe i was planning on it
    ) , but after thinking up the concept and drawing it a couple times, I had it memorized and didn't need to use it! So think of your own unique way to memorize information, but don't memorize instead of conceptualizing.

    Another thing I havn't heard mentioned, is that sometimes you can be doing the math right but continously reading the problem wrong. Check to make sure you are reading all the words and numbers correctly if you find yourself getting the same "wrong" answer (the answer key can also be wrong).

    As for your question #2: before you look at the key, go on to the next problem. Sometimes doing another problem will help you realize your mistake/what you are stuck on. Once you are left with only problems you are stuck on, then look at the key. Attack the easy problems first, and dont stay stuck too long before you move on to the next problem and come back. I hope this helps, I wish I had figured that out sooner (would have saved me a lot of time). And don't give up.
  13. Oct 28, 2011 #12
    I know a lot of people who do not like math and think that it is too hard for them to handle. I remember my teacher would always say that no one is good at math there are people that get used to it. So you just have to practice and get used to thinking like a Math student. What I found was this guide that really helped me in my studies. It helped me with math along with many other fields of study. The guide could be found at http://www.how-to-study-for-college.com" [Broken]

    once you start applying those concepts I am quite sure you will see a change in your comprehension and applications skills. Hope this helps!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  14. Oct 28, 2011 #13
    Make a "study/summary/cheat sheet".
    Write down the "essence" of what one needs to know about the topic/type of problem.
    Write down what you have learned as if you were going to teach your younger sister.
    This helps you codify what you know a bit like writing a movie review.
    This sheet will also make going over it easier.
    Repetition leads to retention.
    Most students forget what they learned in just a few weeks.
    This is critical because Math builds up in layers so you will need to review
    the ideas for next year's/level courses.

    I let my students use these personally made sheets in exams.
    I do not test for memorization.
    I test for the ability to use the information to solve problems.

    Good luck
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