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Studying What's wrong with my study habits?

  1. Feb 28, 2017 #1
    When I was taking normal Algebra 1 and Geometry, I always Aced my tests. (Even without doing homework).
    However, I decided to bump myself into Accelerated Algebra 2/Precalculus in order to take Trig/CalcA in the summer and AP Calc BC senior year. I'm naturally good when it comes to understanding concepts or what is asked of me, but ever since I enrolled my self into this accelerated/advanced student math pace, I've been "chocking" when it comes to my math grade.

    Here is a showdown of my grades.
    First test: B
    Second and third test: D
    Overall grade: C

    I've been doing my homework, and I even went to tutor a few times during my lunch. I'm clearly dedicated and its not like i'm blowing this class off. My problem is when it comes to test, I never feel like i'm prepared enough (even though I probably studied 4 hours in total before the day of the test). I stress out and get extremely nerv-racking when I take the math tests and I feel like I forget formulas and basic steps to solving a math problem from the excess of stress.

    My class started out a new chapter and i've been doing/understanding my homework. I want to get an A on this test to make my second quarter easier for me to attain an overall B- (80.00%) at minimum for the overall semester. Please share any tips/notes or anything else that could suffice me.

    side-note: Could over-studying make me stressed out and instead degrade my performance?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 28, 2017 #2

    QuantumQuest

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    The first thing I would suggest is to get rid of stress. As you go to a higher level in education, you must gradually develop critical thinking in order to go on successfully. Now, this has to do with a number of factors: studying hard but being selective about what you study, having a good schedule that balances your study with all the everyday things you do - especially sleeping well is of utmost importance, finding a way to structure your knowledge such that the main concepts persist in memory and you can derive things from them and defeating stress in any way that fits yourself.

    Although all the above may sound like just theoretical ideas, they are absolutely feasible. What can make them such, is having some well defined goals for your further education that you really like. Also, nothing can be achieved overnight: you have to be patient and persistent to achieve your goals, no matter what. It is true that after high school things change dramatically in education, as you have to abandon the memorization model for theory and tinkering with-substituting-solving formulas for exercises and you have to think way more deeply and critically in order to grasp concepts and go on successfully. But that's how the whole thing is. So, roll up your sleeves and get to work for success.
     
  4. Feb 28, 2017 #3

    Choppy

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    I suspect part of your problem is that you're used to getting decent grades without putting a lot of hard work in. You're now encountering a situation where that work is necessary to earn the grade you want. Four hours really isn't much. Studying should be part of your routine, not just something that you do the night before an exam. As a first step, try putting more time into your studying and see what that does to your results.

    Exam anxiety can come up for many reasons. One thing you're likely to find is that the more prepared you are, the less anxious you'll feel. But aside from that, consider also doing practice exams. Find similar questions online, or try to come up with your own list of questions based on your homework. Then try to answer the problems under a time constraint. You can even visualize yourself doing the test in the environment you would normally take the test in. As much as possible, you want the actual test experience to be the Nth time you've done it, not the first.
     
  5. Feb 28, 2017 #4
    By 4 hours, I mean those 4 hours solely the night before, not including days before the test. I go to tutors and study/do homework throughout each chapter I've done.
    I guess i'll try to study/complete homework more frequently till I feel comfortable and visualize the environment.
     
  6. Feb 28, 2017 #5

    Doc Al

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    Describe how you've been studying. What's your approach?
     
  7. Mar 10, 2017 #6
    Ok, guys. This time I made sure I was calm before test, I reviewed material throughout the chapters, and did all the homework.
    Once again I get a B on the quiz and I got a C on my test...
    Last test I had A on my quiz and D on the test.

    I'm getting really pissed off because it seems like no matter what I do nothing is working out. I'm going to talk to my math teacher because its clear to me that I understand the material, but for some reason I can't perform good on tests.
     
  8. Mar 10, 2017 #7

    symbolipoint

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    Now you know what studying typical Mathematics courses is like for normal people. One must work at it hard. One must read and reread parts of the textbook several times. One needs to usually study between 2 and 3 hours on just the one Math course almost everyday.

    You said in your very first sentence in the first post on this topic that you did well on tests in Algebra 1 and Geometry (either in high school, or as remedial level in community college) without studying without homework. Very strange! Not the right way to go. Far too risky no matter how "good" you are or believe you are at that level.
     
  9. Mar 10, 2017 #8

    Choppy

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    It's important to remember that there is often a gap between understanding and execution.

    As a student, it's very easy to think you've understood a concept - particularly when you're reviewing it as it's been taught to you. But there's a hierarchy of different depths of understanding. Often in university, the goal of an examination is to test whether you understand the material enough to apply it in a new situation that you haven't encountered before (rather than applying it under identical circumstances to which it was initially presented).

    There is also the issue of skill development through practice. Mary Boas has some great advice on this.

    For the record, I understand that this is easy to say, but when you're balancing a full course load, a part-time job, volunteer work and putting in the time to take good care of yourself, there isn't a lot of time at the end of the day to complete the homework, read ahead in the lectures, AND do additional problems to develop your skill. But to the best of my knowledge, that's the way it works.
     
  10. Mar 11, 2017 #9
    When you study at home, do you practice recalling material from the textbook, without having it open? Or do you just read & re-read the textbook? Same thing with the homework exercises - do you have the textbook open or closed when you do these?

    What quizzes and tests do is force you to recall material without the book available. If you're not performing well on these quizzes & tests, then very possibly your recall is weak; which is the same as saying you haven't really learned the material as well as you think you have.

    You can easily incorporate recall practice into your studying via a strategy of "read and recall." I do this myself & find it useful. It works like this: I read part of a chapter in a textbook, then put the textbook aside and write out the parts that I can remember in a notebook I keep for that purpose. Usually I find I can remember only a few points. Then I re-read the same passage; and again put the book aside, and for a second time write down what I recall; usually this second try is better. If need be I'll do it a third time, but perhaps I might wait longer - e.g. do the recall practice the next day. Apparently the sooner you practice recalling material after you have read it, the more effective this practice is; but you can try different intervals between reading & recall (e.g. immediate; 30 minutes; next day; etc.) to see what works best for you.

    Where I read about this: A 2014 book called Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A. McDaniel. You may be able to find it in a library near you. It has chapters on various learning strategies, and one of the chapters covers recall & how to improve it.

    You'll also find this strategy of read-and-recall described in various articles online; do a Google for "learn read recall" and you'll probably get some hits. For example here's a Scientific American article titled "Reading Techniques Help Students Master Science" which mentions it; I've bolded a couple of interesting points:

    In one compelling study researchers at Purdue University tested four reading strategies on 80 college students. One fourth of the students were told to type everything they remembered from a passage they read about sea otters. Then they repeated the read-and-type cycle. A week later those students recalled the sea otter info better than any other group, including one that made concept maps, one that reread the passage four times and a group that read the passage once.

    Oddly, the students didn't seem to be able to tell which strategy would help them remember the most. When surveyed, they said they thought rereading would work best and that typing what they remembered would be the least effective. The study made it to the What Works Clearinghouse, a U.S. Department of Education database that aims to collect the strongest studies on teaching techniques.​
     
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2017
  11. Mar 11, 2017 #10

    vela

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    Do you understand why you lost points on the test, or are you mystified as to what you did wrong? Are they stupid mistakes due to carelessness, or did you make mistakes based on a misunderstanding of or not knowing a basic concept? Diagnosing where you're going wrong is a good place to start trying to figure out a solution.

    Good idea. Your teacher may be able to suggest different learning strategies. You'll need to make the commitment to follow through because what you have been doing apparently isn't working.

    Despite your claim, your performance on tests suggests you don't really understand the material. As Choppy mentioned, there are different levels of understanding, and it may simply be that you're expected to reach a higher level than you have in the past. Strategies that worked for you in the past may no longer be sufficient.
     
  12. Mar 11, 2017 #11
    P.S. Thought I should mention that if you Google for learning strategies for math, or search Amazon or other online bookstores for the same, you'll get some good hits you can follow up on. Lots of folks have written about this. Two more sources I'll mention:

    - If you keep on in science & math, a good book on learning strategy specifically for those subjects is A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science, by Barbara Oakley. It takes some patience to read, but is quite thoughtful & full of suggestions. However it's not a quick fix for what ails you right now in your class.

    - Your position isn't much different from a student just entering university who finds the math courses intimidating at first. Here's a study guide from a math teacher's web site at the University of Utah; you may find some of his suggestions helpful: http://www.math.utah.edu/~pa/math.html
     
  13. Mar 11, 2017 #12

    QuantumQuest

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    I want to make two points. First, as vela asked, what the results of a B on the quiz and a C on your test tell you exactly? As you describe it, your pre-test mood and preparation were well enough. So, the level of understanding is the culprit, as pointed out by Choppy. And a better level of understanding entails a capability of looking beyond the material itself. As a practical piece of advice here, I would say that finding more resources for problems and trying to solve them with a mindset of "thinking out of the box", would be beneficial in this regard. You have to learn - not in the sense of obligation but purely for your own good, to look through the material you study to where you're heading to and not just in the way that you learned some things and that's all. In other words, you must find a way to look for structuring and interconnecting knowledge in order to go on successfully.

    My second point is that there's really no need to be pissed off. It's better to see instances of failure as opportunities to improve your knowledge. We've all been through similar situations in our life and there's really no point to think in a negative manner. I think it will really be good to talk to your math teacher and take some good advice.
     
  14. Mar 11, 2017 #13
    I'm guessing you're American and you have gotten accustomed to an algorithmic approach to mathematics. If I see a problem that looks like this I do this and this and out falls the answer. That's unfortunately how children are taught but that's not mathematics and you will get to a point where it no longer works for you and you have to understand the underlying concepts. Everyone hits a point where it becomes harder than it used to be. For some students the wake up is trig, for some it's calculus, for some it's graduate analysis, but everyone eventually feels the same as you. Get extra reading materials, do problems from different sources, make sure you read for understanding, not just to satisfy the goal of completing a particular type of problem.
     
  15. Mar 11, 2017 #14

    Doc Al

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    Let me echo the advice given you by UsableThought. That is precisely what I was getting at with my earlier question about how you were studying.
     
  16. Mar 11, 2017 #15
    What I understood from the compilation of posts above is: memorization no longer suffices standards for getting A on a test.
    My new study habit will consist of doing the homework assigned in class, wait a couple of hours, and try to retain and write the information that I learned from the in-class notes and homework onto a new blank notebook sheet. Something else I noticed everyone repeating above is the principality of understanding math and not just memorizing. My argument to that statement is, in my Accelerated Algebra 2/Precalc class, we're basically given formulas or a "method" of approaching and solving the problem. In reality, we're not necessarily thought to try and understand/apply it in the real world. We're thought a method of solving a problem and we should be excellent at performing that method when it comes to test time. In any case, this is the absolute worst i've ever felt about math. And its not because I'm a bad student or I can't understand what I've learned, i'm engaged in a continuous road block towards my success; perhaps the worst feeling i've ever felt is the repetition of failure.
     
  17. Mar 11, 2017 #16
    Einstein said something similar so you are in good company,
     
  18. Mar 11, 2017 #17

    symbolipoint

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    No. Two things wrong with that part quoted above.

    Memorization NEVER WAS sufficient and will continue to not be sufficient. Whatever you used in the past the do well, it was not memorization by itself.

    You should not expect to wait any minimum of two hours after a lecture, to start reviewing lectured material and revising lecture notes. You need to start this part of the process AS SOON AS THE OPPORTUNITY OCCURS; which may be four or five hours after the lecture, or as soon as five minutes after the lecture - whichever or whatever opportunity that you have.




    That is the beginning of a method to see how to change what you have been doing. Your goal is two things: One is understanding. The other is solving problems. The two do go together. Why do we draw figures, pictures, and graphs? In part, because we are connecting a problem to conceptual understanding.
     
  19. Mar 29, 2017 #18
    We just had a test and I scored a solid B, 86%. However I didn't study as much (I still completed my homework and reviewed notes). I honestly don't even know now as I do better with less studying which makes no sense to me.
     
  20. Mar 29, 2017 #19
    Pruxxia, there is a lot of research done on how people learn. Studying more does not necessarily mean you will perform better than someone who studies less. The key is to studying effectively and efficiently. Take a look at:

    http://tguilfoyle.cmswiki.wikispaces.net/file/view/What_works,_What_doesn't.pdf

    The fact that you are study less and do better actually makes a lot of sense. What symbolipoint mentions is actually ineffective studying. You should not study the lecture material at the earliest possible opportunity. You should wait perhaps a day and try to test yourself on what was covered in the previous day. This is something called retrieval practice (or spaced learning). Now, look back at your lecture notes and see if there are any key points you missed. Although I say to wait perhaps a day, the amount of time to wait does require experimentation as well as identifying time constraints.

    A lot of people mention you should read for understanding. A question now arises: how do you actually *know* that you understand the material? I recommend reading the book "Make it Stick". You should see what research has to say about the learning process.

    While writing this I realized Usable Thought has said the same I have. One point I do want to mention is, don't be scared of studying less - at times this is actually the smart thing to do. The learning process is very complicated and I see a lot of people simplify it by saying things such as: "read for understanding", "don't memorize", "do lots of problems"... when in fact it is much more complicated than that. You can do a lot of problems and even solve a lot correctly and still not have a strong understanding of the material. I've seen this many times - students are good with math, but ask a conceptual question and they fail. Doc's question is a good one: it's *how* you study what matters a lot and not necessarily the amount of time spent.
     
  21. Mar 29, 2017 #20

    symbolipoint

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    Very important for you to recognize: YOU DID YOUR HOMEWORK! THAT IS A BIG PART OF ACADEMIC WORK FOR COURSES.
     
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