Never Read a Math Textbook Before?

You are not alone. The pattern most math students are accustomed to goes something like this:

  • Attend lecture (most of the time)
  • Take notes (maybe/maybe not)
  • Try homework
  • Get stuck
  • Search for videos (go down You Tube hole and waste an hour)
  • Go to math lab (run out of time because it took waaaaay longer than you though it would and other people needed help too, so you had to wait sometimes)
  • Review notes out of desperation
  • Visit office hours for help (maybe)

Notice how reading the textbook isn’t even on the list? This is the number one thing that needs to change to be successful in an Introductory Statistics course. This is not the same kind of content as a Math class and it is important to understand the vocabulary and reasoning behind the calculations. It is concepts that you must master!

Try this flow instead:

  • Pre-lecture
    • Read Chapter Summary First
      • overview helps you get the big picture
      • helps your brain notice important concepts
    • Skim Chapter
      • headings and subheadings are great predictors
      • examples familiarize you with new notation and symbols
    • Read all the Boxes
      • vocabulary is
      • summary boxes found after examples and toward the end of the chapter sections are what you need to master to understand the steps to a statistical a process
  • Lecture
    • Sit up front, take notes, and ask permission to audio record – students who are actively engaged, rather than hiding in the back, are more successful
    • Hand write notes
      • typing notes is not as effective for creating memory as hand writing
      • muscle memory increases recall in exams
      • try using a stylus on a touchscreen tablet or laptop for both digital notes and the benefits of hand writing
    • Use color
      • create a system for vocab vs. formulas vs. steps in a problem
      • it keeps your brain engaged and makes finding things in your notes easier
    • Participate in group work an class exercises – it  is a preview of quiz and test question style!
  • Post-Lecture
    • Review notes the same evening
    • Review notes the next morning
  • Homework
    • Attempt homework immediately after class or at least within 12-24 hours of lecture
    • DO NOT LET HOMEWORK PILE UP UNTIL THE WEEKEND!!!
      • long stretches of homework are bad for long term memory (you will recall the first hour and the last hour, but forget everything between)
      • increased stress and anxiety = decreased memory
    • Working with Formulas
      • Create your own master “cheat sheet” by hand – even if you will be given formulas on a quiz or exam!
        • handwriting increases memory
        • working with the formulas helps you find the correct one on an exam – many students get confused by a formula sheet that is new to them and freeze in tests!
      • Every time you reference the sheet – write the formula down first and then substitute values into the formula below it
        • helps you to learn the formula rather than memorization
        • rote memorization makes you vulnerable to test anxiety, memory loss (ie: “going blank” in the exam”)
        • connects the formula with the concept
        • turns homework into an effective study guide
    • Do homework in free drop-in lab
    • Flag questions to bring into the drop-in lab
    • Attend instructor office hours
      • get help from the person who writes your tests!
      • bring class notes and flagged questions to get help making connections between lecture and homework
      • ask for study strategy advice
    • Attend Stats Concept Clinic for additional help
  • Quiz and Test Prep
    • “What is the composition of the exam?” is much better than “What will be on the test?”
      • Will there be multiple choice and/or true/false and how many?
      • Will there be short answer and what are strategies to ensure full credit for complete solutions?
      • Create a “dream cheat sheet” * see “Working with Formulas” above and DO IT NOW if you haven’t been doing it all along.
      • GO DEEP WITH THE STUDY GUIDE – IF GIVEN ONE
        • using it as a check list of things you have heard of or not is not effective!
        • List EVERYTHING you can under each item on the study guide until it looks like an outline of the lecture notes, textbook reading, and patterns/variations of types of problems in the homework
      • MAKE YOUR OWN STUDY GUIDE – IF NOT GIVEN ONE
        • Use the lecture notes, textbook reading, and patterns/variations of types of problems in the homework to create an outline of everything covered for the exam.
  • Final Exam Prep
    • Make corrections as you go – rather than all at once at the end of the semester
      • Correct exam errors immediately after test is returned
      • Refer to notes and homework examples to find solutions to incorrect answers
      • Visit office hours/math lab/Stats Clinic to get clarification on problems you do not understand the error or cannot correct on your own
    • Begin review at least 2 weeks before the Final Exam
    • Use all quizzes and exams to review
      • Make copies and cross out answers
      • Re-take quizzes and exams
      • If you got a problem correct – move on! You know the concept.
      •  If you got a problem incorrect – dig deeper and find examples from the notes, homework, and/or practice tests to reinforce the concept
      • DO THE REVIEW EXERCISES!!! They are a gift!
      • Create a “Master Dream Cheat Sheet” Even if you don’t get to use it in the Final Exam, as you organize the information on paper it will become better organized in your mind!