13 Steps to a Good Grade

Mathematics is like a sport. It can only be learned through active participation.
Here are some thoughts on studying mathematics and being successful, or 

"The Thirteen Steps to a Good Grade in Math"


  1. It is imperative that you go to class daily, take complete class notes and read the syllabus in detail. The syllabus contains a significant amount of information for you.
  2. Grasping Mathematics is hard work and the process of acquiring knowledge takes a concerted effort on the part of the student. Plan to spend about two hours on each assignment. You may sometimes need to spend more. Be sure to do more than just the assigned problems.
  3. As soon after class as possible, study your class notes and examples. You may even want to rewrite your notes for greater clarity. (This rewrite process serves to make you begin thinking about the ideas, the first step in learning.)
  4. Then read carefully the section(s) of the textbook related to the material, giving special attention to the vocabulary, basic concepts and problem examples. You may want to relate this reading to your class notes, highlighting the concepts which have been discussed.
  5. Now begin the assignment. To do so earlier is foolhardy, since the assignment is designed to be practice and application of the ideas and concepts, which you really need to grasp and understand before you do the assignment; hence, prior study of the ideas is essential!
  6. Check your answers in the back of the textbook as you go along. If you are having difficulties, go back and restudy, looking at the examples done in class and in the textbook for similarities to your problem; then try your problem again.
  7. If difficulties arise at this point, and you are unable to work them out for yourself or with one another (group study is encouraged - we can learn from each other’s problems and analyses), then the time has come to seek help. Seek help directly from the lecturer and/or T.A. during office hours or go to the math tutor room. Do not wait until the next class to ask the question; there may not be time, or the instructor may not be able to get to your problem.
  8. When you have successfully completed your assignment, go back and reread the text sections and class notes again, for emphasis and review of the concepts. This won’t take very long, and it pays big dividends in locking in the concepts, processes and terminology into your “memory bank.”
  9. Successful students find that the next step in doing one’s assignment is to look ahead at what is coming up in the next class; you can easily see what section will be discussed by looking at your syllabus. Do a quick read over of the appropriate text sections, not for mastery but for general overview. Get familiar with the new terms and basic concepts, so when they are presented in class they won’t seem so “foreign” to you.
  10. Finally, successful students also have found that, just prior to the next class (perhaps fifteen minutes before class begins, or even on the way to class) a quick reread of the “old” class notes as well as the “new” text section gives them an edge, especially if there is a quiz (announced or unannounced).
  11. Keep up with daily assignments and don't fall behind. Math often builds on previous topics, and mastery of material is important.
  12. Begin to prepare for an exam well in advance of the exam date, say a week or so before. Review continually! Practice the skills and understand how the concepts apply to new situations.
  13. One final suggestion: don’t get discouraged, and above all don’t give up too easily. Mathematics is challenging, but it can also be fun, interesting, intellectually rewarding, and very useful! 
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