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What Can I Do to Help this Math Stuff Sink In?

These learning suggestions come from lots of instructors. Some of the ideas are general in nature, but many refer to specific features of Math for Business and Life. Figure out a system that works for you; the following ideas are only suggestions.

  1. Don’t make the mistake of taking too many classes at once, particularly if you are just getting started in college. As a rule of thumb, students need to spend 2 hours studying outside of class for each hour of class time. So, if you are taking 15 credit hours, it will likely take about 30 hours of studying outside of class, for a total of 45 hours per week. (You can, if you want, use your math skills to confirm these numbers!) Some classes, like math-related classes, require more study time than other classes. As a result, you may want to balance your class load (by taking a less demanding class or two) when taking a math class.

  2. If your instructor doesn’t require you to take a Pre-Quiz (from our Web site), you should do it on your own. The Pre-Quiz evaluates your skills in some basics at the start of the course. For any questions missed, you are given page numbers of the text to review. If you take the Pre-Quiz and review the suggested page numbers for any questions missed, you will be in a better position to complete the course. You can access the Pre-Quiz under Assessment Tools/Student Login. (Note: If your instructor is not registered for the Assessment Tools, we will have to get your instructor registered before you can take the Pre-Quiz; just let us know that you want to take the Pre-Quiz by calling 1-800-844-1856.)

  3. Read a chapter before it is covered in class. Doing this helps you see the big picture and gives you a head start. Even if you don’t completely understand everything you read, you will get MUCH more from the class lecture. If you have questions, you can ask them during class. Be sure to read the introductory page and all of the examples. You don’t need to worry about reading the end-of-chapter material; you can do that later. Reading the chapters in advance does not take a lot of time, but it will be VERY valuable; it will save you time in the long run!

  4. Don’t miss class, arrive late, or leave early. Take good notes in class and ask questions about things you don’t understand. Some students hate asking questions because the instructor or other students may think the questions are dumb or because asking questions will waste class time. The truth is, other students likely have the same questions too. If no one asks questions, instructors assume that everyone understands things perfectly; by asking questions, you will be helping your instructor know to slow down a bit.

  5. As soon as possible after a class lecture, review the units of the text that were covered in class. Do the UTry- It questions at the end of those units. Then do the Chapter Review Problems for those units. For example, if you cover Unit 4.1 in class, immediately do the U-Try-It questions for Unit 4.1 and the Chapter Review Problems for Unit 4.1 (the Chapter Review Problems are separated by unit). By doing the problems as soon as possible, the ideas will be fresh and it will take less time than if you wait awhile.

    • Answers to the U-Try-It questions are shown just below the questions. Step-by-Step solutions are shown in Appendix A of the text.

    • Answers to Chapter Review Problems are given in Appendix B of the text. Step-by-Step solutions are provided on our Web site (Step-By-Step Solutions under Student Resources). These same solutions are provided in printed form in a Student Solutions Manual; if your bookstore does not have any, you can buy one through our Web site.

    • Solve the U-Try-It questions and Chapter Review Problems without referring to the solutions; you will learn more by struggling a bit, trying to define the problem. Once you have an answer, compare your answer with the one found in the text. If your answer is wrong, compare your solution with ours.

  6. Find a study buddy or a group of study buddies. Studying with classmates provides a chance to share different ways of solving problems. Remember, there are often many ways to solve a problem. Each student will likely have different strengths and weaknesses; by using your combined brainpower you will likely find an easy-to-remember solution you may not have discovered on your own! Have you ever felt like you didn’t know where to start on a problem or that you were “going in circles”? These are common frustrations. Studying with classmates is a great way to minimize these feelings. Studying with others is not only more effective, but it takes less time and is more fun than doing problems on your own.

    • Find students who can study at times that are convenient for you, are dependable, and have compatible personalities. Form a group.

    • Meet at the same times each week so you don’t have to arrange get-togethers at the last minute.

    • Select a good meeting place, like a school classroom when it’s not being used by other classes.

    • Determine the most effective way to study together. Some students sit around a table and work one problem at a time individually, comparing answers before moving on to the next problem. A fun and perhaps more effective method is to use a blackboard (or white board) in a classroom. Take turns working problems on the board, carefully explaining each step. Ask for help from the others. Group members not at the board can simply watch (not be busy working the problem themselves), anticipating the next step; they can ask, “Why did you do that?” or “Could we do it this way instead?”

    • Reap the rewards! For the students who are quicker at things, they learn better by explaining the process to other students. For the students who struggle a bit, they get to ask questions and get new ideas on how to do things. Everyone wins!

  7. As you do Chapter Review Problems, circle the problem numbers you struggle with. For example, if you struggle with problems 7, 18, 38, and 42, circle those. Later rework circled problems. Put a mark by the ones you still struggle with and later do those again, until you don’t have any problems you struggle with.

  8. Use the Student Tutorial as a learning tool. You can access the Student Tutorial on our Web site under Student Resources. Your instructor does not have to be registered for you to use the Student Tutorial. Simply click a chapter and begin the tutorial. The results are not sent to your instructor—the tutorial is for your benefit only. When completed, you can redo any questions you missed; you can even ask for the correct answer.

  9. Before you do a chapter test (or midterm), do the Practice Test(s) found at the end of each chapter. The answers are in Appendix B of the text, but don’t look at the answers until you have completed all of the questions in the Practice Test. If your answers are wrong, you can find the step-by-step solutions on our Web site or in a Student Solutions Manual. Circle the problems you missed. Redo the problems you got wrong or do a similar problem elsewhere in the text.

  10. If you have a comprehensive final exam, use your circled list of Chapter Review Problems and Practice Test questions (the questions you initially struggled with) as a basis for review purposes. If you have studied with classmates, study with them when reviewing for the final. Hopefully you will all get 100%!
  11. Here are some additional study ideas, in no particular order:

  12. If you just can’t understand how to do a particular problem, ask your instructor for help. Some schools have labs where students can go for help. Also, you can contact the Student Hotline on our Web site (under “I Need Help” on the navigation bar). E-mail your question; you will get a response fairly quickly. Keep in mind the hotline cannot provide help on Homework Assignment questions or actual test questions (your instructor wants to grade you, not grade us).

  13. As you study and do problems, don’t just try to memorize procedures; instead try to understand the logic of why things work the way they do. As an example, to find the amount of interest on a simple interest loan we can use the formula I = PRT. A formula like this may seem intimidating, but it is based on common sense. If you get a $7,000 loan (the P part) at 10% interest (the R part), you would owe $700 for an entire year ($7,000 × 10% = $700). But if you borrow the money for less than a year, say 6 months (or 1/2 of a year, which is the T part of the formula), you would owe only half of the $700, or $350.

  14. As you do problems, try to figure out THE common mistakes that result in wrong answers; by doing this you will be more likely to avoid making these mistakes later on.

  15. As you learn from Math for Business and Life, look for ways you can use what you are learning. For example, as you are studying the chapter on Home Ownership and Mortgage Loans, think about a home you may buy in the future. Math for Business and Life has the reputation of being the most real-life text on the market. That’s why so many students say, “Hey, this is stuff I can really use.” Having real-life examples and problems helps make learning easier!

  16. As you are doing problems involving money (the majority of problems do involve money), think of the money as your own. You will be able to relate to the problem better, and you will be less likely to make a dramatic error.

  17. Some people learn more effectively if they study in 20-30 minute sessions, separated by short breaks. Some research has shown that our brains remember beginnings and endings more easily than the middle. So, 4 study sessions of 30 minutes each provide 4 beginnings and 4 ends, instead of 1 beginning and 1 end in a 2-hour session, so for the same 2 hours of study we get 4 times the benefit. The short breaks could consist of standing up and stretching for awhile, taking a short walk, or getting a bite to eat.

  18. Try reviewing material just before going to bed. During sleep, the brain sorts events of the day backwards; while sleeping, the brain reviews, sorts, and stores the material just studied.

  19. When studying, use as many senses as possible. Look at a problem, copy it down, and say it aloud. Talking aloud about how to solve the problem helps us organize our solution. Some people even tape what they say aloud, then replay the tape at various times during the day or while going to sleep.

  20. When doing a problem that involves more than one step, do one step at a time. Avoid being overwhelmed.

  21. If you are overwhelmed with problems that include large numbers, try substituting small numbers and the process should be easier.

  22. If you are an older student who has been away from math for several years, put your experience in the real world to work for you! Your experience should help you relate to the real-world problems of the text.

  23. Be committed to finishing the course. Many students drop out of classes because things aren’t sinking in at first. Many of these students are taking the class to see how things go, knowing they will drop the class if things don’t go well. Don’t start your course with this attitude. Those who stick it out generally do better later in the course than they did in the first part of the course and are happy they stuck with it.

  24. Don’t sacrifice understanding for speed. Speed will come after practice with similar problems.

  25. If you need to, hire a tutor (or ask for help from a friend or relative with a math background). Experience has shown that a study buddy is more effective than a tutor. That’s because a study buddy is on your level. We learn from struggling a bit with a study buddy rather than being “told” how to work the problem by a tutor. But if you can’t get a study buddy, find a good math person who has patience and will not talk above your head. If you do get help from a math person, be sure to do your part (like reading the text, attending class, asking questions in class, etc.). Don’t rely on that person to teach you, only to help you understand procedures and the logic of the procedures.


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