Study Skills – Doing Homework, Coping Strategies (Tuesday 11/3/09)

November 2, 2009 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

Note – This is the first in a series of Study Skills related articles that will appear each Tuesday.

Before I get to this week’s study skill, let me go over my general philosophy about teaching study skills in developmental mathematics classes.

I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that developmental mathematics students struggle solely because their mathematical skills are weak. I believe that many students struggle to learn mathematics because they do not know how to learn mathematics. As a college mathematics instructor, is it my job to teach my students how to study and learn mathematics, or am I simply supposed to deliver the material and leave the rest up to the students? Well, if I don’t teach my students how to study and learn mathematics, I am essentially writing those students off. They will continue to try the failed approaches of their past, and the results will be no different.

Students know they are supposed to study for a test … they don’t necessarily know how.

Students know they are supposed to take notes in class … they don’t know how, or why.

Students know they are supposed to do homework … they don’t know how, or why.


I don’t believe that students gain a great deal by taking general study skills classes or “Master Student” classes. I think that the skills are best taught in context while students are in their math class. The challenge is learning how to do this while still covering the material in the course outline.

My approach is to use in-class activities that take between 5-10 minutes, along with outside of class assignments, to teach students the necessary study skills. This will be the focus of my Tuesday blog post. So, without further ado, …

Study Skill Activity – Doing Homework – Coping Strategies

Students know they are supposed to do homework, and many give their best effort. However, they don’t know what to do when they reach a problem that they struggle with. This activity is designed to help students develop a list of coping strategies when they find themselves in this situation.

  • At the very beginning of class, or towards the end of class, form groups of 2-4 students.
  • Have each group of students make a list of 5 coping strategies when stuck on a homework exercise. (5 minutes should be plenty of time.)
  • Collect the strategies on the board, 1 from each group, until all strategies are exhausted.

As the coping strategies are written on the board, comment on each one. Discuss the effectiveness and practicality of each strategy. Add any additional information that you feel will be helpful –

  • Have students start by examining their notes for a similar problem of helpful information.
  • Students can look through the textbook for similar examples.
  • Try looking at exercises you have already completed to gain insight into the problem you are now working on.
  • Try moving to the next problem.
  • Recommend attending your office hours.
  • Suggest that your students visit the tutorial center.
  • Have students create a list of phone numbers and email addresses of classmates that are available for help.
  • Discuss the different features available in MyMathLab.

The goal is for your students to develop a strategy for what to do when they run into a problem they struggle with, and I think you will find that this activity will help them to do that.

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. If there are topics you’d like me to address in future Study Skills articles, send in your requests through the contact page on my web site. Be sure to check out next Tuesday’s article.  – George


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MyMathLab – Search/Email By Criteria (Monday 11/2/09) General Teaching – Understanding Confidence Intervals in Statistics (Wednesday 11/4/09)

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