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Students reveal secrets to learning math


(Second of three parts)

How do my college students deal with mathematics every day? Here are some of their secrets.

Listen and participate

Phoebe Joyce Co says:  Attend all your classes … missing even just one math class would very likely have a bad impact on your grade.  It will be hard to catch up, especially if the lesson is new or difficult.  Missing classes can lead to a domino effect because all math lessons are connected to each other.  Submit all the requirements, even if you think they [account for] only a small percentage of your grade.  You never know if your quizzes would earn you a higher grade. [Even] homework or exercises that are not graded, do them. They will give you extra practice for actual graded assessments … sometimes, exam questions are patterned after them.

Khristine Dee Montenegro says:  Listen to the teacher.  Math teachers can sometimes be boring, [talk] too fast or just be plain bad.  But you really have no choice but to listen to them or you will either get left behind or learn absolutely nothing.  Listening is the key to learning.  Listen with an open mind and heart and think about what is in it for you, what math can do for you.  For some of us, our first impression of math can be awful but first impressions don’t always last.  Hang in there, for you will never progress if you give up when the battle has not even started.  Once you learn to really listen, you may end up enjoying listening to learn.

Miguel Anthony Locsin says:  Ask questions if you do not understand. Don’t worry about making yourself look stupid … If you really don’t understand the topic, it won’t help to suffer in silence.  More often than not, your fellow students might actually want to ask the same question … One teacher told me that if a student would not ask questions in class, it could mean one of two things:  Either he understood the entire topic … (which is very unlikely) or the student was not listening enough to ask anything.

Sabina Anne Co says:  Find a quiet place for study.  Listening to music and watching TV while studying are common mistakes students make nowadays.  You think that you are activating your brain cells when, in fact, you are merely losing your focus.  You end up singing, dancing, watching TV and forgetting about math!  Stay in a quiet place, such as the library.  Your mind is able to do so much more processing and you will be able to absorb more information without losing focus.

Jung Sung Gyum says:  Improve your English.  Math is not simply the study of formulas and numbers.  The critical thinking skill in a lot of math is not something that comes from numbers but from language.  The hardest problems most students are stuck with are the word problems.  The better you are in English, the more logical and creative analysis you can make of the word problem.

Read, read, read

Margarita Beatrice Olivares says:  Read your textbook.  Math books do not only answer questions. They also provide examples, solutions and explanations.  Read and reread the chapters.  If you feel the math book is not enough, read other books or go to the Net.  The Internet can be helpful in math because it’s filled with people who either don’t understand math at all or  who know a ton of things about every branch and topic.  Helpful sites like Khan Academy provide videos to make lessons easier to understand.

Suzanne Fe Carmen says:  Read lessons in advance. If you cannot read the entire lesson, at least browse through it. Reading in advance helps you follow the discussion in class and understand the lesson better … reading lessons in advance helps in understanding the lessons faster and prevents me from getting lost during class discussion.  Advance reading also gives you an idea which parts of the chapter are more challenging and for which you [may need] help from your teacher or other classmates.  I mark the parts I identify [as] my weaknesses and when the discussion gets to those parts, I listen extra carefully.

Angela Carmela Natividad says:  Write everything down.  Take notes well.  You may think it ridiculous to write down something as simple as 3 x 4 = 12 but … having a more organized set of solutions will aid in the long run.  Who cares if you can solve it mentally?  Write things down.  Don’t give yourself a headache later on trying to figure out how you got 12 from x. Writing may be more tedious but it will help. If you do get lost, say things out loud.  Sometimes problems make more sense when we read them aloud … Saying questions out loud makes us concentrate on what we’re saying and introduces us to things we might not have detected earlier.

Yna Patricia Alvarez says:  Translate math into a code.  When you see those x’s and y’s, do not fret.  Math problems can be translated from words to numbers and the other way around to make things easier and more comprehensible. For example, take the equation x + 5 is 15. You may use something practical like “people” to substitute for x, so it would go like this:  If my parents said I could invite 15 people to my house and I already asked five, then let x be the number of people I could still invite.  By playing around with math, concepts would be less serious and more fun.

Diane Panopio says: In the exam, [do] easy problems first. You will have more motivation and more time to do the harder ones.  If you’re stuck with a problem and have no idea how to proceed, skip the current item and go on to the next one.  This way, you utilize your time well and you will have [a better] chance of finishing on time.  Sometimes [as you] solve things, you will notice unusual results … Don’t freak out. Reread the problem and check the formula.  Check if the figures on the test match the ones you’ve copied on your answer sheet.  Review the process, see if something is amiss (wrong numbers, signs, calculations).

Next week:  Math as a habit

E-mail the author at blessbook@yahoo.com.

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