Posts filed under ‘study skills’

Math Study Skills – Review for Test (AMATYC)

Today’s study skill blog is another spin-off of an idea that was discussed in my AMATYC workshop. It came from a group of participants that did not list the college where they teach. (If you are reading this, drop me a line and I’ll add your colleges.) I think this is a great way to help students to review for exams (and maybe learn how to create practice tests of their own), as well as showing that the textbook can be a valuable resource.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. In the left column, type up examples from the textbook. The problems should be diverse, as well as completely covering the material that is to be tested. This column represents the review.
  2. In the right column, type the page number and example number where the problem is worked out completely in the book. This column represents the answer key to the review. 

After students work through the review problems, they check their answers in the textbook. For problems they got wrong, students can look over the complete solution to see where they went wrong.

The instructor who wrote up this activity only uses this as an optional assignment, and it works quite well with students who know that they need to review to prepare for an exam. One big advantage is that students do not run into the problem of not being able to solve a problem on the night before an exam and not knowing where to turn.

My Spin

I would use this approach to try to help students write their own practice tests as the semester goes along. I’d give one or two reviews completely done, then have students write their own using examples in the book. After that I’d try to get them to write another one using odd-numbered textbook exercises. Being able to write your own practice test is a very valuable skill for success in college.

One other thing I would like to add is that for students who get a problem incorrect I would recommend that they try the “Quick Check” exercise that follows the example in the textbook to see if they have learned from their mistake. (In my book they are called Quick Check exercises, but in other texts they are called “Your Turn”, “You Try It”, etc.)

Benefits

First, students get an outstanding review for the exam with a built-in complete solutions manual. Second, this strategy can be used to help students learn how to write their own practice tests.

Summary

Do you have any innovative activities that you use to help students review for an exam? Please share by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.

-George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.

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December 7, 2010 at 9:49 am Leave a comment

Math Study Skills – Weekly Calendar (AMATYC)

Today’s study skill blog is another spin-off of an idea that was discussed in my AMATYC workshop. It came from a group of 3 participants from Southwestern Michigan College (MI)  and Cecil College (MD). It is a different spin on my Weekly Calendar Activity that I previously blogged about.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Have students fill in their own weekly calendar with all activities except when they plan to study and when they are free. (Set up a calendar that runs from 6am until midnight.)
  2. Have students fill in all “left over” time with a yellow highlighter. This makes it easier to find their free time.
  3. On the bottom of the calendar put a rectangle and an oval.
    Have students fill in the rectangle with 2 times their number of credit hours.
    Have students fill in the oval with the amount of time that has been highlighted in yellow.
  4. Have students compare the figures in the rectangle and the oval.
    If “Hours in Rectangle” < “Hours in Oval”, then the student should have enough time to complete assignments, study, and do well in class.
    If “Hours in Rectangle” > “Hours in Oval”, then the student does not have enough time to be successful and should consider rearranging their schedule.

Benefits

This not only helps students to realize that they might be over-committed like my weekly calendar activity does, it makes the case for exactly what is expected in order to be successful in college. If you think that 2 hours outside of class for each hour in class is not enough, you could always bump up the rectangle to be 3 times the number of credit hours.

Summary

Do you have any activities that focus on time management? Do you use a version of the weekly calendar with your students?  Please share by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.

-George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.

November 30, 2010 at 6:57 am Leave a comment

Math Study Skills – Test Preparation Activity

Today’s study skill blog is another spin-off of an idea that was discussed in my AMATYC workshop. It came from a group of 3 participants from Lake Sumter CC (FL), Fisher College (MA), and Cape Fear CC (NC). It is a different spin on my “Half-Test” that I previously blogged about.

Here’s how it goes:

  1. Give a practice half-test in class. This should be roughly half the length of the test you plan to give, and you should give the students half of the class period to complete their work. The questions should hit all of the areas that students traditionally struggle with.
  2. After you call time, give the students an answer key. You may wish to give a complete solution key, showing each solution in a step-by-step fashion.
  3. Give students some time to figure out what they did wrong on the problems they got incorrect.
  4. Have the students get into groups of 2 to 4 students and have them help each other with the problems they struggled with. Students can give pointers on how they approach the problems.

Benefits

The half-test, on its own, has a couple of huge benefits. First, it puts students in a “test environment” without any test consequences. Many students freeze up on exams, and I feel that one cause is that they do not get a chance to experience the pressure that appears during a test. I also believe that many students do not freeze up, but just do not understand that they are unprepared for the test. The half-test will help your students to diagnose which problems will require further study – if they struggle with a problem they still have a day to straighten themselves out. Their focus should be on those types of problems they struggled with.

I really like the idea of putting students together in groups to go over the results and share advice for success. To be honest, I can’t believe I never thought of that! It not only helps the student who missed a problem, it also helps the student doing the explaining. A student who can explain how to do a problem will retain that knowledge.

Summary

Do you have any activities to help students learn how to prepare for tests? Do you use an innovative technique for helping students to prepare?  Please share by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.

-George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.

November 23, 2010 at 6:33 am 1 comment

Math Study Skills – Sharing Class Notes

Today’s study skill blog is a spin-off of an idea that was discussed in my AMATYC workshop. It came from a group of 4 participants from Valencia CC (FL), Johnson & Wales (NC), Collin College (TX), and St. Charles CC (MO).

The suggestion was to use LiveScribe in class to “PenCast” notes. LiveScribe is a pen that captures notes as you take them in a fashion that can easily be uploaded to the web. Not only does it capture notes – it also captures audio as well. (For more information, check out their website LiveScribe.com.

The instructor selects a student that takes good notes, and asks that student to be the note taker for the day. The instructor then gives the student the LiveScribe pen and the special note paper, and the student takes notes as they normally would. At the end of class, the instructor gets the LiveScribe pen back from the student and uploads the notes and classroom audio to their web page.

This allows other students to view the notes with the real-time classroom audio for a review of what happened in class. It also allows students to spend more time concentrating on the lecture itself, rather than blindly copying down notes. This gives a student a chance to think and reflect during class, and to focus on truly understanding. 

I recently had a discussion with a colleague who lamented that his students spent so much of their mental energy in just copying what was on the board that he has considered a 15-minute “no pencil zone” in his class. This would help students to think and increase understanding. I think that this LiveScribe strategy could be just as effective.

My Spin

This idea can be used (without the classroom audio) without the LiveScribe pen. I can select a student as a note taker, collect the student’s notes, scan them, and post a pdf file. (You could also print them out for the class, although I’d rather post them online.)

This approach of a class note taker can have a positive impact on other students and their note taking. By seeing a set of high quality notes, students can learn better note taking skills. They can also use the online notes to supplement their own notes. Finally, this will help students to focus on the math during class, not on just copying everything down.

Summary

Do you have any experience with using the LiveScribe pen? Have you ever used a class note taker? Please share by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.

-George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.

November 17, 2010 at 10:20 am 2 comments

Why Teaching Study Skills is Important

I’m on my way to host a workshop at AMATYC on incorporating study skills into a developmental mathematics class. (The workshop is Thursday morning from 9-11 am.) I am also excited to be giving a similar talk at Bunker Hill Community College.

Sadly there are still instructors who feel that teaching study skills has no business in a developmental math class. They say “This is college, and college students need to figure these things out for themselves. When I was in college I was never taught how to be a student, and I turned out just fine. If a student can not figure out how to be a college student, they should not be a college student.” This strikes me as an elitist attitude. I view my job as helping students to learn and understand mathematics, and if my students do not know how to learn mathematics then I can not be successful.

Other instructors say that students know what to do in order to be successful. Although this may be true, my claim is that students do not know how to do these things. Or even why they do these things. On the first day of class, ask your students “What do you need to do in order to be a good math student?” Your students will generate a lengthy, though very general, list: come to class, take notes, do homework, study, ask for help, … If you ask follow up questions like “Why do you take notes?” or “What is an effective study plan?”, you will see nothing but blank stares. When pressed, a student will tell you that they take notes in class because everyone else does, that they blindly copy whatever is on the board without thinking about what is going on, and that they do not use their notes outside of class.

I incorporate math study skills into every developmental math class I teach. The skills I cover include note taking, time management, test preparation, test taking, test analysis, practice quizzes, note cards for memorization, study groups, learning styles, math anxiety, reading a math textbook, and doing homework. I am able to do this while still covering all of the material in the course outline through the use of short in-class activities and assignments. During my workshop I will be sharing many of the assignments and activities that I use. If you would like to these assignments and activities, or if you would like to view the PowerPoint slides I will be using, you can find the on the Presentations page on my website: georgewoodbury.com .

If we can teach our students the study skills that are needed to learn mathematics, we are increasing their chances for success. By success I am not just referring to their success in our class, but also in their future classes. And in college. And hopefully in life.

Wrap Up

How much time do you spend on study skills? Do you feel that we shouldn’t be teaching study skills? If you have any questions or feedback, let me know by posting a comment or reaching me through the contact page on my web site: georgewoodbury.com .

November 10, 2010 at 12:26 pm 1 comment

Intro to my 2010 AMATYC Study Skills Workshop

This week at AMATYC (Thursday November 11) I will be hosting a 2 hour workshop (9-11am) on incorporating study skills into a developmental math class. Here is the beginning of my talk, explaining why I feel incorporating study skills into mathematics courses is important, as well as some pointers for how to do this without sacrificing any material.

Why teach study skills?

Are developmental math students struggling solely because of poor math skills? Although poor math skills could be part of the problem, I don’t think that’s the only reason they are struggling. Could part of the problem be that they do not know how to learn mathematics? I think that this is the key. If a student is lacking the necessary math study skills, then success is a long shot at best.

Should we teach study skills?

There are many instructors who would answer “No” to this question. I think the reasoning is that we are teaching at a college, and if a student doesn’t have the survival skills needed in college they have two choices – develop them on their own or disappear.

I think that this approach is unfair, and perhaps slightly elitist. If a student did not learn in K-12 how to succeed in a mathematics class, or how to succeed in school in general, then we cannot continue to penalize them for this. The same holds true for the re-entry student who has been away from school for 10+ years.

Another thing to keep in mind is that even though we are teaching at a college, many of the students are enrolled in a class considered to be a pre-collegiate course such as Prealgebra or Elementary Algebra. One of the many reasons I love teaching at a community college is because we are in a position where we can help students to start anew, to give them the tools that will change their path in life. Helping a student understand how to learn is a great first step in this journey.

General Study Skills Courses and Their Shortcomings for Math Students

At our college, many (first year) students take a general study skills course.  These “Student Success” courses focus on the college’s resources and programs designed to help students. The courses also offer general guidelines as to how to be a successful student. The courses are typically taught by the Counseling division. These courses can be quite helpful to students in general, but in many ways fall short in helping students to be successful in mathematics.

The set of study skills required to be successful in a math class are in many ways different than the skills needed in a history class, an English class, or an art class. Of course, being an active listener is important to success in all of those classes, but I feel it is crucial in mathematics.

Another problem for me with the general study skills class is that many of the study skills are taught out of context. When the instructor says note cards are a great aid for memorizing facts, the students will most likely forget about this skill by the time they will be able to apply it in my class. However, when I reach the first specific instance that I feel the use of note cards would be helpful I can briefly stop the class, explain the power of using note cards, exactly what to write on the card, how to make use of the cards, and so on. This is a skill that my students will now understand and incorporate them into their general strategy. Later in the semester all I have to say is “This is a note card moment” and my students know what to do.

Teaching the study skills within the framework of a math class helps students to understand the current material while also adding to their study skill toolbox.

Study Skills That I Cover

I have a list of 12 study skills that I cover in my developmental math classes.

  • Note Taking
  • Doing Homework Effectively
  • Reading a Math Text
  • Creating Note Cards
  • Test Preparation
  • Practice Quizzes
  • Test Taking
  • Test Analysis
  • Time Management
  • Study Groups
  • Math Anxiety
  • Learning Styles

Three Essential Elements for Every Study Skill

Every study skill that I teach must address the following three elements.

  • How do we do it?
    Obviously I have to show them how to apply or incorporate each study skill. I also have to discuss when to apply the skill and under which circumstances to apply the skill.
  • Why do we do it?
    Students need to know why each skill is important, and what benefits come from applying the skill. If they don’t know why each skill is important, they won’t see why they need to incorporate that skill into their routine. If you don’t explain the benefits associated with a particular study skill, they will assume there are none.
  • Encourage them to do it.
    To get students started, you must encourage them to use the study skills. That includes suggesting when to use a particular study skill – read through the next section of the textbook before tomorrow’s class, create a set of note cards for problems that you find to be difficult, create a practice quiz that coves today’s material, … You also have to remind them of the benefits – by going over your mistakes on last night’s homework you’ll increase your chances of getting a similar problem correct on the exam.

How do I cover study skills and still cover all of the material in the course outline?

It’s possible! I incorporate study skills into my mathematics lectures. My preference is to talk about study skills within the flow of the daily lectures. I have designed short in-class activities that I can use. I try to keep the time commitment to 10 or less minutes. I have also developed a series of assignments that can be completed outside of class.

The remainder of the talk lists a series of activities and assignments that I use in my classes. These activities and assignments will be presented in future blog articles. You can view the assignments on my web page, as well as the PowerPoint presentation. They are stored on the Presentations page on georgewoodbury.com.

If you’re at AMATYC in Boston be sure to come by my workshop, or at least swing by the Pearson booth to say hi.

Note – Study Skills related articles appear here every Tuesday.

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. – George

November 9, 2010 at 6:07 am 1 comment

Math Study Skills – Time Management (Wrap Up)

Note: This is the fifth and last in a series of blogs on advice for students concerning Time Management.  (PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4) The series ran over the last several Tuesdays.

Time Management is one study skill that most students can improve, and it can have a tremendous impact on your success. In today’s finale to my time management series for students I will summarize the main ideas for improving your time management skills.

Keep Track of Your Time

Record how you spend your time over a one-week period. Look for ways that you can be more efficient with your time, look for ways that you have wasted time during that week. Look for intervals in your schedule that you can insert an extra study session.

When to Study

It is best to spend at least part of your study time for math as soon as possible after class. This especially is a good time for working on homework – save review for later in the day.

If there is a part of your day when you are at your sharpest mentally (some people are morning people, others are night people), try to study during those times.

Setting Goals

To get the most out of your study sessions, create a list of goals you want to accomplish. These goals should be specific and realistic. This “to do” list helps you to organize your study session and to keep on track.

Studying for Two or More Subjects

If you have two or more subjects to study for, start with your most difficult subject first while your mental abilities are at their highest. It is very unproductive to study a difficult subject while you are tired. If you have two difficult subjects to study, try to squeeze an easier subject between them. This will allow you to regain your energy and focus.

Be sure to take periodic breaks while you study, say 10 minutes every hour.

Summary

Time management is one area that most students need to improve, and can significantly impact your success in your classes. If you have any thoughts or questions on time management, please share by leaving a comment, or reaching me through the contact page at my web site – georgewoodbury.com.

-George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. Each Tuesday I post an article related to Math Study Skills on my blog. If there’s a particular study skill you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website – http://georgewoodbury.com.

November 2, 2010 at 5:51 am 1 comment

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