Tips from the Math Department

Greetings from the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science! I am writing this short article to offer some academic tips and resources. I hope that some of them will be useful to you!

First, and arguably most importantly, find a way to be organized and disciplined that works for you.

  • Create “appointments” for studying similar to a class schedule. Try an app like Google Calendar, Microsoft OneNote, Evernote, etc. Set up reminders for deadlines!
  • Use a bullet journal to set goals and execute long-term plans. Who doesn’t love a cool notebook, anyway?
  • Try a spaced practice study regimen. Start studying a new topic at regular and close intervals (for example, every day between 4:00-5:00pm). As you begin to feel comfortable with that material, increase the time between your study intervals. This will show you where your weaknesses lie: You’ll probably forget some stuff over 2 to 3 days, and things you have forgotten about or that still seem difficult are what you should focus on.

 

  • We want to help you learn mathematics deeply, so that you can enjoy it and make use of it! We can’t do that unless you’ve got the basic skills. Take stock, honestly, of any gaps in your mathematical abilities. Your instructor can also help you find materials for reviewing or catching up, or you can also
  • Drop by the Learning Center, where they have peer tutors and offer one-on-one consulting to develop your academic toolkit.

Mastering lower-division mathematics is often tantamount to mastering various techniques. To really learn a technique you’ll need lots of experience applying it. That is, you’ll need lots of exercises to work out!

  • Dip into other textbooks, or reputable online resources. When the exercises all start to look the same, you’ll know that you are ready to move on.

A big part of learning mathematics is feeling “stuck,” whether it’s on a specific problem or understanding a new concept in the first place. Learn to accept this. Desensitize yourself to the frustration and cultivate tenacity just as you would in mastering a musical or athletic skill. If you really can’t get out of your mathematical bind, then talk to us! Seeking help shows engagement, not weakness.

  • Never feel reluctant to ask for help.

Pay attention to the marked papers your instructor hands back, even if it’s painful to read your corrected work! Bear in mind that mistakes are opportunities, not liabilities. The Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto is famously quoted as saying “Give me the fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself.”

  • Make a record of mistakes you’ve made, and how you resolved them. Keep it handy when you’re studying or working out problems.  

This might be an obvious thing to write, but I am going to suggest it anyway: Take care of yourself! Exercise, eat well (or, at least, as well as you can), and get enough sleep. Try using the Nap Wheel, designed by Professor Mednick at U.C. Riverside, to do some memory-enhancing, reenergizing napping.
And finally, interact with your instructors. At some point during their academic careers, each of your professors made a choice of where to teach. All of us chose to work at The Mount! We are here because we want to be a positive force in your life, and because we want to share our knowledge and experiences. On the other hand, we want to hear about things you’ve read or heard that captured your interest, even if they don’t seem directly relevant to our course.

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