Studying (math focus)

This winter I’ve been teaching math with my dad (how lucky to get to try that!). In his teaching, he stresses the importance of reading. When we are young the majority of the math books are problems to solve. We learn that math is about solving problems. Later on, the textbooks change and become more and more text. This is when more people start having a problem with math. By only trying to solve the problems, first of all, the majority of the book is skipped (ever read one-third of a history book and expected to do well?). Secondly, it’s as hard as trying to read the text in a foreign language without learning the words first. Intuition can help to understand things, but there is no intuition for knowing that a right angle is 90° or that a rectangle has four right angles or what absolute value is. It’s just a concept to learn and memorize. I was teaching 12-year-old girl math and asked her what she did if she didn’t know or remember some math concept. She was not sure. Then I asked her what she did if she didn’t know some word in English. The answer was easy, look it up and repeat it 100 times!

“Look it up and repeat it 100 times!”


Being on the other side of the table, now teaching, has made me think a lot about how to study. I already wrote one article before about studying (Studying vs studying) so I had given this some thought but this time I am focusing more on math and the overall studying process, step by step. I gave a lecture about it to our students and they were happy about having this discussion. It also helped later on when I could remind them of this tip or that tool that would help them in some situations. Here is the summary of my thoughts:

I decided to divide the studying process into

READ -> UNDERSTAND -> REMEMBER -> USE

These steps don’t happen completely linearly, they mix but what is sure is that you have to start by reading(or hearing) the material and the main goal is to be able to use it. For each step, I will give a few points and thoughts on how to make it easier and more effective.

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