Here is part two of the 10 Habits of Successful Math Students.
Help a friend
Think you know a subject? Try teaching it. Helping out a friend in math is a remarkably efficient way to study. When you show a friend how to solve a problem, not only does it firm up your own understanding, but you will begin to see the problem forward and backwards. Often times, your friend will ask questions, and that conversation can help you see the problem from a different perspective. Teaching is an active learning style, and I strongly recommend trying it out.
Experiment with your study style
The best study habits are the habits that works best for you. Some people learn best in the morning, others at night. My peak studying often happens from 8pm-10pm after lots of caffeine, and music playing as I sing along and do mathematics. But for you, you might need absolute quiet. Some people like to get out of the house to study, others need to be at their desk at home. Mix it up and see what works best for you. It might surprise you.
One chapter, one note card
The power in mathematics is reducing a pattern down to a simple expression you can write down. Elegance and beauty in mathematics is expressed in reducing, streamlining, and condensing ideas down. A study habit that works well is being able to identify the main ideas in a chapter, and writing them down on a note card. What is the least amount of information you can put on a note card and still understand the chapter. Is there something that can be derived from another? Eliminate it. Or draw the connection on the card between the two ideas. The act of eliminating causes you to prioritize which information is more important. Euclid was able to reduce all of the geometric proofs to 5 postulates. That is powerful, and mathematics is always seeking to replicate this 2000 year old feat.
Be confident, there is no reason to panic
Imagine you are taking a math test. Take a deep breath. You know the answer. You feel it intuitively. Your brain knows when the solution just looks wrong. If you are stressed out and panicking, your brain is doing everything but finding the solution. There will be a lot of distractions, and thoughts, and sometimes self doubt. Effective math students are able to ignore these feelings temporarily and focus on finishing the problem. Just remember, there is a solution, it is waiting for you to find it.
There is an old saying that 90% of success is just showing up. In math, it is very similar. Because mathematics is constantly building on your prior knowledge, it is important to have a habit of consistency. Students who set aside time every day to do their homework, will have more time to ask questions of their teachers. This allows them to understand the material better, so that they can start to figure out how it all fits together. Consistency allows a student to gradually absorb the knowledge. Studying for a test is less stressful because they are prepared, and they only have to worry about performing well. All the learning has already happened in the previous weeks. Cramming the night before (yes we all have done it) isn’t a long term strategy for consistently scoring well.
Feel free to let me know if you have a habit that helps you score well in your math class. I would love to hear what works for you.