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Revisiting Mathematics
(Continued from 1)

Textbooks also contain glossaries and answer sections. Check the meaning of each new mathematical term. In your notebook, include a vocabulary section for each chapter. And remember to check your answers to all homework questions.

After each lesson, spend time reading the corresponding explanation in the textbook and copy additional tips into your notebook. As you gain more confidence with the material, start reading ahead. Try learning a new mathematical concept using only the textbook's explanation. The following day, participate and ask questions in class.

Learn How to Use Your Calculator

If you are taking social science or business courses, you will need a statistical calculator that can easily calculate measures of central tendency and dispersion. If you are enrolled in a science or technology program, you will require a different type of calculator. A scientific calculator has a larger memory and can perform operations with logarithmic and trigonometric functions. Alternatively, you may find you require a graphical calculator. E-mail and ask the instructor if you need any advice regarding your selection. Do not wait until the night before a major test or examination to test drive the calculator.

As soon as you purchase a new calculator, sit down and read the manual thoroughly. Become well acquainted with the calculator’s layout; know where all the numbers and symbols are located. Learn how to use all the calculator features, especially the memory function. Know how to switch between functions and practice calculations with multiple steps.

Keep Up with the Technology

In addition to a calculator, students must also learn how to use software programs that allow for large amounts of data to be input and complex calculations to be carried out. For example, Susan will be introduced to statistical software in her introductory course. In future psychology courses, she will be required to use this program to collect and organize data. Many of these software programs give free trial periods. As a student, you will also qualify for an educational discount.

Improve Your Test Performance

If you pay attention in class and complete all assignments, you will be prepared for tests and the final examination. To overcome any lingering anxiety, try a few practice tests beforehand. In addition to using the sample tests in your textbook, you can find more samples online and in other math books. Look around for copies of your instructor's old tests and examinations. Many college and university libraries keep files of all examinations administered by the institution.

Plan your strategy for the test or examination room. Carefully read through the entire paper and allocate your time accordingly. While completing each question, show all your work and justify your answer. If you are using scratch paper, ensure that all solutions have been written on the examination paper.

Do not linger on any difficult questions. If you cannot determine the correct answer, write down everything you know about the problem. Whenever possible, include a diagram. A hand drawn diagram will allow you to view the situation from a different perspective.

If time permits, go back and double-check all solutions. Ensure that each answer makes sense. For example, if you are solving a distance problem, the answer cannot be a negative number. Check all units of measure and make the appropriate conversions, if necessary.

Have Realistic Expectations

You will probably spend the majority of your time on the mathematics course. As a result, you may have high expectations. Do not be too disappointed if you receive a C on your first test. Think back to your previous performance in high school math classes. If you barely passed each year, you have made significant progress by achieving a C grade on your first college test in mathematics. Maintain your newly acquired work habits—you will improve your grade and be better prepared for future mathematics courses.

Suggested Resources

I strongly recommend Study Guides and Strategies for help with algebra and problem solving. Last year, the National College Learning Center Association awarded this site its first “Innovative use of Technology Award.” If you wish to purchase software, the Algebra Solver is an excellent choice. This easy-to-use online program deals with common math problems, equations, inequalities, calculus, matrices and graphs.

For 31 years, Joanne Guidoccio taught mathematics, computer science, business and career education courses in secondary schools throughout Ontario, Canada. Her articles, book reviews, and short stories have been published in Canadian newspapers and online. Joanne holds bachelors' degrees in both mathematics and education.


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