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Test Taking Issues and My Future With Math

  1. Mar 25, 2010 #1
    I didn't know if it would make sense to split this into two seperate threads, so I've combined my two questions.

    My first question deals with test taking problems I'm experiencing with Calc. 1. The way we get grades in my class is 80% tests and 20% quizzes. In turn, this means all homework the teacher assigns counts for nothing more than practice of concepts. Just one problem though. I always do very well on this homework and then come into class the next day only to do terrible on the tests and quizzes.

    It's something I just can't understand and it's an issue that's plagued me in all iterations of math up to this class. I feel like if I'm going to sit for hours on end killing my hands and staring at this work, I should have something to show for it. However, it's just not that way. Would anyone have any ideas what my problem might be??

    My second question concerns my future with math. Unlike other subjects, I like math because there's always a unique sense of gratification at solving problems and everything is more concrete than other things out in the world.

    I'd like to pursue a future career with math, but since I've been in (a 2yr) college nearly 4 years and am still unable to know what I want to pursue, I'm beginning to become frustrated. I'm at a point where I've lost a lot of drive to do anything and I don't know if I'm making a good decision even pursuing this Computer Science degree. By the way, I really really dislike programming.

    As a person who likes math but is not overly creative, I really don't know where I could make a worthwhile 40k+ career.

    So really, I guess what I really want to know is if anyone else has ever been in my shoes and how they were able to decide what was best for them. Because really, this terrible to just now be able to consider myself a junior after 4 years of schooling and still be so unsure of myself.....
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 25, 2010 #2
    I once taught a course in calculus. There were homework assignments and quizzes. The homework was way harder than the quizzes. ~95% passed the homework, ~50% passed the quizzes.

    Anyway, for your issue try to do the homework problems without using the book. If you can't then you have your issue right there. Otherwise you have test taking anxiety which means that you must learn to calm down during tests, which can be extremely hard for some and I can't really help you with that.

    As for your second question, can't you just take an applied maths degree and work as a stat guy or something like that? Very few get to work within pure maths so that is an unrealistic expectation unless you are absurdedly gifted.
  4. Mar 25, 2010 #3
    Your test-taking problem requires more study and diagnosis. Try to figure out precisely why you are losing points on your exams. It would be helpful to get the exam materials back to analyze them. If that's not possible, try simulating a math exam at home with a strict time limit and unknown problems. You'll know if the simulation works if you screw up the test!

    I've always understood math pretty well, but I tend to get the wrong answer and lose a lot of points. As an undergrad, I was satisfied with half-assed grades and never looked further into it. But lately I've studied the problem and realized where most of my mistakes come from: slopppiness. At least 20% of my mistakes are just copying errors from one line to the next! Being aware of this has helped me improve.

    If your problem is anxiety, get a good book on cognitive behavioral therapy and see if it's an approach that works for you.
  5. Mar 26, 2010 #4
    I find my problem with my math exams is that I don't have my notes with me. As your working the problems take notice of the number of times you refer to your notes or book to find the next step. I'm sure you'll find as I did that you don't have the process and formulas as firmly in your mind as you need to pass your exams without the aid of notes.
  6. Mar 26, 2010 #5
    Also, make sure you are physically fit. I.e. at least work out 3 times a week for 20 minutes, and working out means something similar to fast jogging or more intense exercise, not playing golf.

    This can make any problems you have far less worse. If you are not fit, then worrying about the exam, not sleeping well before the exam and stress during the exam will affect your performance. If you are physically very fit, you can have a sleepless night, feel a bit stressed out and yet perform well on the exam.
  7. Mar 27, 2010 #6
    Nice tip about the exercise. I had a lot of stress in my life, and i started running 3 times a week and has done wonders for me. It wont make you pass the test with out knowing the material but it can help bring you into balance which will def help you study and perform well on the test.
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